Donald Trump wanted everyone to believe that he was just boasting when he talked in a leaked recording from 2005 about the way he treated women: “Just kiss, I don't even wait … Grab 'em by the pussy … When you're a star, they let you do anything.”
But when Anderson Cooper pressed him on it during the second presidential debate, he said he’d never followed through: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” Trump said. And when Cooper asked, “Have you ever done those things?” Trump answered, “No, I have not.”
Yet more than a dozen women have come forward to say he did. The New York Times published a report featuring two women who said Trump groped them or kissed them against their will. A third woman told the Palm Beach Post that Trump had grabbed her from behind at Mar-a-Lago. A writer for People magazine said Trump grabbed her and kissed her while she was interviewing him for a story related to his first year of marriage with his wife, Melania Trump.
And one woman, Summer Zervos, is now suing President-elect Trump for defamation because he called her and his other accusers liars.
Trump also has a long, well-documented history of other questionable behavior with women. His ex-wife, Ivana Trump, said in a divorce deposition that he raped her, describing a violent sexual assault. (She now says the story was “totally without merit.”) More broadly, Trump has relentlessly objectified the women around him and, whenever possible, tried to shape policy at his companies and businesses to reward the type of women he finds beautiful.
Trump denies all the allegations. But the striking thing about them is how closely they track Trump’s own description of his actions on that tape.
In several of these stories, he doesn’t wait for permission, but just starts kissing and groping women. And, because he is a powerful celebrity, the women say they were reluctant to come forward — until, at least three of them said, his denial at the second presidential debate that his actions ever matched his words enraged them.
Jessica Drake says Trump kissed her without her permission and later offered her money for sex
Jessica Drake, an adult film star who is being represented by feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, met Donald Trump at Lake Tahoe at a golf tournament in 2006, she said. Trump hugged her tightly and kissed her on the lips without her permission, and later invited her up to his suite. She declined, and either Trump or someone working on his behalf offered her $10,000 for sex, Drake said.
Ninni Laaksonen says Trump groped her before a Miss Universe television appearance
Ninni Laaksonen, a former Miss Finland, told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper that Trump groped her behind in 2006 before she appeared on a television show in New York with other Miss Universe contestants.
“He really grabbed my butt,” Laaksonen said. “I don’t think anybody saw it but I flinched and thought: ‘What is happening?’” She said it left her feeling “disgusted.”
Natasha Stoynoff says Trump kissed her while she was writing a feature about his marriage to Melania
Natasha Stoynoff covered Trump for People magazine in the early 2000s, and described her relationship with Trump and his wife Melania as “very friendly” and “professional” — until she traveled to Mar-a-Lago to write about the couple’s first anniversary, she wrote in People Wednesday night.
There Trump took her on a tour of the house and, without her consent, pushed her up against the wall and kissed her: “I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat,” Stoynoff wrote. “He was fast, taking me by surprise, and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.”
Trump then promised her: “We’re going to have an affair.” Then Melania — who was very pregnant — walked in. Stoynoff, afraid that Trump would ruin her career, wrote her story and asked not to interview him again. What made her come forward, she said, was anger that Trump lied during the debate about not following through on his words.
A spokesperson for Trump denied to People that this ever happened.
Karena Virginia says Trump grabbed her breast the first time he saw her
Karena Virginia, a yoga instructor and life coach who held a press conference with feminist attorney Gloria Allred, said that she met Trump while waiting for a car service outside the U.S. Open tennis tournament. He commented on her appearance to the other men he was with, saying “Look at this one, we haven't seen her before. Look at those legs,” she said. Then he grabbed her arm and her breast.
Virginia said she thought Trump’s actions were her fault because of the way she was dressed. But she said she felt it is “my duty as a woman, as a mother, a human being and as an American citizen to speak out and tell the truth.” (The deputy communications director of the Trump campaign, Jessica Ditto, called the allegation “fictional” in a press release and referred to Allred as a “discredited political operative.”)
Rachel Crooks says Trump kissed her on the lips immediately after meeting her
Rachel Crooks, interviewed by the New York Times, said that she was working as a receptionist at a company with office space in Trump Tower in 2005 when she met Trump in the building. When she introduced herself, he kissed her, first on the cheeks and then on the mouth. Trump, she said, asked for her phone number a few days later, because he said he wanted to give it to a modeling agency.
Crooks told her sister and her boyfriend that day — she started crying hysterically after work — and they confirmed her story to the Times. (Trump denies this ever took place.)
Kristin Anderson says Trump groped her at a nightclub
Kristin Anderson, interviewed by the Washington Post, said that when she was in her early 20s, she was at the China Club nightclub with friends. Trump was sitting next to her on a red couch, and although they hadn’t met, he reached up her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear.
“It wasn’t a sexual come-on. I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it, and nothing would happen,” she told the Washington Post. “There was zero conversation. We didn’t even really look at each other. It was very random, very nonchalant on his part.”
Anderson said she came forward after other women did so, and because she started to think an incident she’d considered gross and inappropriate as “a gateway” for even more predatory behavior from Trump. “It sends an awful message to women,” she told the Post. (The Trump campaign says this never happened.)
Jessica Leeds says Trump groped her on a plane
Jessica Leeds, 74, had never met Trump when she sat next to him after being upgraded to first class on a flight to New York in the early 1980s. But shortly into the flight, Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt, she told the New York Times. She left first class and, only recently, once Trump began running for president, told friends and relatives about what happened. But she didn’t go to the media until she heard Trump deny assaulting women during the debate Sunday night.
Trump denied this, saying “None of this ever took place.”
Cathy Heller says Trump grabbed her and kissed her at a Mother’s Day brunch in front of her family
Cathy Heller, 63, was sitting with her husband, three children, and in-laws at a Mother’s Day brunch at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in 1997. Trump was making the rounds introducing himself to club members, and Heller stood up to shake Trump’s hand when he came to their table.
Then, Heller told the Guardian, Trump “took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips.” She leaned back to avoid him and almost lost her balance. Then, she said, Trump angrily barked, “Oh, come on,” once again grabbed her and went for the lips, and planted a kiss on the side of her mouth after she turned her head away.
“I was angry and shaken,” Heller said, and no one at the table really knew how to react. Heller said Trump was “pissed” because he “couldn’t believe a woman would pass up the opportunity.” He seemed to feel “entitled” to kiss her.
The Guardian confirmed Heller’s account with two people, a relative who witnessed the incident and a friend who had been emailing with Heller about it. Heller had told a Guardian reporter her story in February, but didn’t want to go on the record until seeing Trump’s denials at the debate.
A Trump spokesperson called the accusation “false,” and said it would have been “the talk of Palm Beach for the past two decades” if it had happened.
Summer Zervos says Trump kissed, groped, and thrusted against her
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, is now suing Trump for defamation because he said she and his other accusers were lying.
In an earlier press conference with attorney Gloria Allred, Zervos alleged that Trump made two unwanted sexual advances towards her in 2007.
Zervos said Trump kissed her on the lips twice when she met him in his office to discuss employment opportunities, and that this made her feel “very nervous and embarrassed.” When she later accepted a dinner invitation from Trump, she was taken to a bungalow instead of the hotel restaurant she was expecting to meet him at. There, she said, Trump started kissing her “open-mouthed,” grabbed her breast, and “began thrusting his genitals.” She said she told him, “Dude, you’re tripping right now,” and made her disinterest clear.
Zervos also said she felt “penalized” for not sleeping with Trump when he later offered her a job at his golf course for half of what she’d been seeking.
Trump said in a statement, “I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.”
Temple Taggart said Trump kissed her on the lips
Temple Taggart, who was Miss Utah in 1997, the first year Trump owned the Miss USA pageant, told the New York Times in May that Trump kissed her the first time they met: “He kissed me directly on the lips,” she told the Times. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’ He was married to Marla Maples at the time.” He later kissed her again, she said, and he did the same thing to other contestants.
Trump denied this happened, saying, the Times reported, that “he is reluctant to kiss strangers on the lips.”
Mindy McGillivray says Trump grabbed her at Mar-a-Lago
Mindy McGillivray was helping a friend, a photographer, with an event at Mar-a-Lago in 2005. Afterward, when she was standing in a pavilion with Trump and his then-fiancée Melania, she felt something nudge her. She thought it was her friend’s camera bag, she told the Palm Beach Post, but when she turned around, she saw Trump behind her.
“This was a pretty good nudge. More of a grab,’’ she told the newspaper. “It was pretty close to the center of my butt. I was startled. I jumped.’’
She told her family and even joked about it in later years, but reached out to tell the Palm Beach Post and Hillary Clinton’s campaign after Trump denied ever assaulting anyone at the debate — a line that, she said, made her jump up and yell “you liar!”
Cassandra Searles says Trump groped her behind
Cassandra Searles, who was Miss Washington in 2013, described Trump as ‘treating us like cattle’ on Facebook. In a comment on her post, according to Yahoo News, she said Trump ‘"grabbed my ass’ and invited her up to his hotel room.
Jill Harth says Trump groped her in his daughter’s bedroom
The most long-standing accusation against Trump comes from Jill Harth, a makeup artist who accused Trump of harassing her and grabbing her against her will in a 1997 lawsuit.
In 1992, Harth was working for the American Dream Festival, a pageant owned by her then-boyfriend that was trying to strike a deal with Donald Trump to hold its event at a Trump hotel in Atlantic City. Trump started pursuing Harth in an escalating campaign of harassment that, according to Harth, ended with an attempted sexual assault in his daughter’s bedroom.
At two business dinners, Harth said in a lawsuit, Trump put his hand on her thigh and reached his hand up her leg to try to grope her in the crotch. (After the first dinner, she alleges, he started referring to himself as her “new boyfriend.”) He tried to lure her to Trump Tower for late-night meetings and called and demanded that she sleep with him.
Then, Harth said, he tried to assault her: In January 1993, according to the lawsuit, Trump stopped her from leaving Mar-a-Lago, which she was visiting on a tour, and “forcibly removed” her to a bedroom, where he kissed her and groped her. She said in the lawsuit that Trump’s unwanted attention caused her to vomit.
The lawsuit claims Trump attempted to rape Harth, but Harth, in interviews this year, has described him as groping her and kissing her. She told the Guardian in July:
He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again, and I had to physically say: “What are you doing? Stop it.” It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George, he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?
Trump denied the allegations at the time, saying Harth was “obsessed” with him. Harth dropped her lawsuit after Trump settled another lawsuit (alleging breach of contract rather than sexual harassment) related to the American Dream Festival. She later dated Trump in 1998, the New York Times’s Nick Kristof reported, wrote supportive letters to the Trump campaign, and sought a job doing Trump’s hair and makeup.
But Harth went public with her allegations again in July, angry that Trump had dismissed her story when she told it to the New York Times.
What she said about her experience — that Trump groped her at business dinners, then grabbed her in his daughter’s room at Mar-a-Lago — has been consistent since the 1997 lawsuit, for which she gave a deposition under oath. George Houraney, Harth’s business partner whom she later married, divorced, and is no longer in contact with, gave a separate but near-identical account, Kristof wrote. Trump has continued to deny the allegations, which were never proven in court.
Ivana Trump once said her ex-husband raped her
In a deposition in their 1992 divorce, Ivana Trump, Trump’s first wife, described a horrific scene in which Trump violently forced her to have sex with him. According to the 1993 Trump biography Lost Tycoon by Harry Hurt III, Trump had surgery in 1989 to remove a bald spot with a plastic surgeon Ivana had used. (Trump denies having this surgery.) The surgery was painful, and Trump took his anger out on Ivana, The Daily Beast wrote in 2015:
What followed was a “violent assault,” according to Lost Tycoon. Donald held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation. He tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants.
“Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified… It is a violent assault,” Hurt writes. “According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.’”
Ivana Trump initially described this in her deposition as rape. She softened that description before Lost Tycoon was published, saying that she “felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent,” but that she was not accusing Trump of a crime.
Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reacted to the Daily Beast story by saying “by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse” — which is not true. (Trump later distanced himself from Cohen’s comments.)
In a statement in July 2015, Ivana Trump said her story was “totally without merit” and that the comments were made “at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald.”
An ongoing lawsuit claims Donald Trump raped a 13-year-old girl — but it’s very sketchy
The most explosive allegation about Donald Trump during his race for the presidency is that he raped a 13-year-old girl at a 1994 orgy hosted by Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who was convicted in 2008 of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution and has been accused of having sex with more than 30 underage girls.
That accusation was at the center of a federal lawsuit filed in June against Trump in New York. A similar lawsuit was dismissed for technical reasons in California.
The lawsuit, filed by an anonymous woman calling herself “Katie Johnson,” claims that when Johnson was 13, Epstein lured her to parties at his apartment by promising “money and a modeling career.” During four of those parties in 1994, Johnson alleges, Trump had sex with her, including violently raping her in a “savage sexual attack.”
The court filings included a statement from “Tiffany Doe,” another anonymous woman, who said that she witnessed the sex and procured the young girls for the parties, and “Joan Doe,” a classmate of the victim who said she was told about the rapes during the following school year.
This spring, a man called “Al Taylor” sent a video of a woman with a blurred face and blonde wig recounting the allegations against Trump to news outlets, saying he wanted $1 million for it. Taylor, the Guardian reported, was actually Norm Lubow, a former producer on the Jerry Springer show who has a history of using fake names and disguises to make juicy, false claims about celebrities.
Aside from the video Taylor was promoting, Johnson hasn’t made herself available for interviews (even anonymously), nor have the other two witnesses including in the filing. Jezebel’s Anna Merlan, who has written about the case, said on Twitter that a district attorney who reached out to the lawsuit backers asking to speak with Johnson was rebuffed. The address on the California lawsuit was for a foreclosed house where no one lives.
The lawsuit was promoted to the media by an anti-Trump, anti-abortion activist named Steve Baer, a conservative activist and donor with a very influential email list. Baer too, has a history of passing around “whoa if true” rumors: Last year, he was a key figure in spreading the notion that US Rep. Kevin McCarthy was having an extramarital affair with a woman in Congress when McCarthy was a candidate to become speaker of the House.
To sum up: The allegations against Trump are from an anonymous plaintiff who refuses to give interviews or to speak to a district attorney, represented by a public spokesman with a false name and a history of making up inflammatory stories about celebrities. The rumors were promoted to the media by a conservative anti-Trump gadfly who, just a year ago, used another evidence-free rumor to accomplish his political goals.
That’s why most media outlets haven’t paid much attention to this lawsuit — it’s explosive, but compared to the women coming forward to give interviews, many under their own name, about what Trump has done to them over the years, it’s also shakier.