The New York Times published explosive allegations Wednesday evening from two women who say Donald Trump sexually assaulted them. The Palm Beach Post also published a story Wednesday night from a third woman.
Trump has been accused of sexual assault and rape before, but was never found liable. This is the first time these three women have spoken out publicly.
One of the alleged assaults happened more than three decades ago, one was in 2003, and the other was in 2005 — the same year Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” audio was recorded.
When Anderson Cooper asked Trump during the second presidential debate whether Trump had ever groped women in the way he described on the tapes, Trump said, “No, I have not.”
All three women who accused Trump of assault said that watching Trump’s denial on TV made them angry, because it so closely mirrored their own experiences — being groped or kissed by Trump suddenly and without consent.
Mindy McGillivray told the Palm Beach Post that she yelled at the TV screen: “You liar!’’ She says Trump “grabbed [her] ass” in 2003, when she was helping Ken Davidoff with a photo shoot at a Ray Charles concert at Mar-A-Lago. Davidoff, who was one of the official Mar-A-Lago photographers at the time, confirmed hearing about the assault from McGillivray at the time.
Jessica Leeds, 74, told the Times her story in a video accompanying the article. She said that Trump groped her while sitting next to her on an airplane in the early 1980s. She was given an upgrade to first class in a seat next to Trump, and they exchanged pleasantries.
Later, she said Trump lifted the armrest, grabbed her breasts, and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
“He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”
Rachel Crooks told a story from 2005, when she was a 22-year-old receptionist at a company that did business with Trump, and Trump forcibly kissed her after she introduced herself to him outside an elevator in the building:
Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”
It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.
“It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”
The Times also spoke to friends and relatives whom Crooks and Leeds had told about the incidents. Crooks told her sister about it immediately after it happened; Leeds told people more recently, when it became clear that Trump might have a shot at the presidency.
None of the three women reported the assaults to the authorities at the time.
Leeds pointed to how different the culture around sexual assault was at the time she says Trump groped her. “We accepted it for years,” she said. “We were taught it was our fault.”
When reached for comment about the Times article, Trump began shouting at the Times reporter who questioned him and threatened to sue the Times if the allegations were published. “You are a disgusting human being,” he said.
Trump’s senior communications adviser Jason Miller released a statement in response to the Times article:
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 trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.
It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable 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.
“There is no truth to this whatsoever,” Trump’s press secretary Hope Hicks told the Palm Beach Post in response to McGillivray’s allegation. “This allegation lacks any merit or veracity.”
Trump has been formally accused of sexual assault in the past — his former business associate Jill Harth sued him for sexual harassment, and his ex-wife Ivana accused him of rape during their divorce. Trump wasn’t found liable in either case.
It’s also no secret that Trump has a long history of misogyny and insulting women. You can review a comprehensive timeline of insults he made against 39 women here.