Sunday 17 December 2017

Trump 'was like octopus': several women accuse him of groping

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Barney Henderson

Donald Trump defended his lewd comments on a 2005 video by saying that they were just words - "locker-room banter" - and that he had never touched women inappropriately.

However, on Wednesday several women came forward to state that the Republican US presidential nominee had groped and kissed them without their consent.

Jessica Leeds arrives at her apartment building
Jessica Leeds arrives at her apartment building

Just before the series of allegations broke, Michelle Obama launched a blistering attack on Trump, describing him as a disgrace and an embarrassment to American men.

The first woman to come forward, Jessica Leeds, claimed that Mr Trump was "like an octopus ... his hands were everywhere" during an incident on a plane more than 30 years ago.

The businesswoman said she was sitting next to Mr Trump in the first-class cabin. She had never met him before. Mr Trump lifted the armrest, tried to grab her breasts and put his hand up her skirt, she told the 'New York Times'. "It was an assault," she said.

A second woman, Rachel Crooks, alleged that she was also assaulted by Mr Trump in 2005 - the same year that the video emerged in which he is recorded talking about ­"grabbing ­(women) by the p****" and stating that "when you're a star, they let you do it".

Ms Crooks, who at the time was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, which is based in Trump Towers, said she introduced herself to the billionaire businessman.

She claimed they shook hands but Mr Trump would not let her go and began kissing her on the cheek. She said he then "kissed me directly on the mouth".

"It was so inappropriate. I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that," she told the 'New York Times'.

In a statement, the Trump campaign said the claims were "fiction", describing the allegations as a "character assassination".

"This entire article is fiction, and for the 'New York Times' to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr Trump on a topic like this is dangerous. To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr Trump trivialises sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election," said Jason Miller, Mr Trump's senior communications adviser.

"It is absurd to think that one of the most recognisable business leaders on the planet, with a strong record of empowering women in his companies, would do the things alleged in this story, and for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all."

Mr Trump told the newspaper: "None of this ever took place."

Natasha Stoynoff, a former 'People Magazine' reporter, has alleged that Mr Trump pushed her up against a wall and forcibly kissed her while she was at his Mar a Lago resort in Florida to report on his first wedding anniversary with Melania.

Another newspaper, 'The Palm Beach Post' in Florida, reported that a woman said Mr Trump also groped her at Mar-a-Lago 13 years ago. Mr Trump's campaign said her allegation "lacks any merit or veracity".

Mindy McGillivray (36) said she did not report her 2003 encounter with Mr Trump to authorities at the time but had shared the story with close friends and family. A man who had accompanied her to Mar-a-Lago that day, Ken Davidoff, told the newspaper he vividly remembers Ms McGillivray telling him Mr Trump had groped her.

Mr Davidoff said he had brought Ms McGillivray with him when he joined his father to shoot pictures during a concert by singer Ray Charles on January 24, 2003. After the show, as people were saying goodbye to Charles, Ms McGillivray felt "a pretty good nudge, more of a grab" close to the centre of her bottom, she told the newspaper.

"I turn around and there's Donald. He sort of looked away quickly," she said. Ms McGillivray said she considered making a scene at the time but decided "to stay quiet". Mr Trump's remarks at the second presidential debate in which he denied groping women changed her mind, she said.

More sordid allegations came from Miss Washington 2013, Cassandra Searles. Yahoo News reported that she had called Mr Trump a "misogynist" in a Facebook post, and said in a comment that he had "continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room".

In addition, CBS News published footage on Wednesday from an 'Entertainment Tonight' Christmas feature in 1992, in which Mr Trump watches a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower.

"I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?" he is heard saying. Mr Trump was 46 at the time.

And Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah, told the 'New York Times' in May how Trump kissed her on the lips when he introduced himself to the 21-year-old contestant at the 1997 Miss USA pageant. Mr Trump has denied all allegations.

During the debate on Sunday night, Mr Trump sought to draw a distinction between his "locker room banter" and what he claimed were the "actions" of Bill Clinton, the former president and husband of his White House rival Hillary Clinton.

"Mine were words - his were actions," he said. "So, don't tell me about words. I am absolutely, I apologise for those words. But it is things that people say."

The Clinton campaign issued a statement.

"This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women," Ms Clinton's communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.

"These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behaviour he bragged about in the tape is more than just words." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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