A wave of claims about Donald Trump’s alleged sexual transgressions and inappropriate behaviour – in one case with a 10-year-old girl – has emerged, threatening the Republican presidential nominee’s already fragile campaign less than a month before election day.
Ever since video of the real estate mogul surfaced on Friday showing him bragging about how he could grab women’s genitals with impunity, more and more women have come forward to claim they were demeaned and touched inappropriately.
By late Wednesday evening the list of new allegations against Trump included:
– two Miss USA contestants who claimed Trump deliberately walked in on them when they were naked in a dressing room.
– two women who allege Trump groped or kissed them without consent – one in the first-class seat of an aircraft.
– a claim by a woman that she was groped at a Trump event at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida.
– a People magazine reporter who says Trump forced himself on her shortly before she was due to interview him and his wife in 2005.
– an incident in which Trump appears to sexualize a 10-year-old girl.
The encounter with the young girl surfaced in a video of a 1992 Entertainment Tonight Christmas special in which Trump appeared, according to CBS News. Trump was 46 at the time.
The holiday show was filmed at Trump Tower and includes a group of 10-year-old girls. Trump asks one if she is going up the escalator. When she tells him she is, he looks at the camera and says to the home audience: “I’m am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
On Friday, a 2005 installment of Access Hollywood was leaked to the Washington Post showing Trump laughing with host Billy Bush about how being famous allowed him to kiss and grope women without their consent.
Trump dismissed the comments as nothing more than “locker-room banter” and insisted during Sunday’s debate with Hillary Clinton that he had not actually done any of the things he described.
But the ensuing furor rocked the Republican party. Formerly solid Trump supporters withdrew endorsements. There were calls for the candidate to step down. Earlier this week, Trump declared war on the GOP establishment, tweeting that House speaker Paul Ryan was a “very weak and ineffective leader”.
And on Wednesday, the stories told by an increasing number of women belied his protestations of innocence.
The New York Times published the story of two women who said that Trump “touched them inappropriately”.
Jessica Leeds, 74, said that, more than three decades ago when she was a traveling businesswoman, she sat next to Trump in the first-class cabin of a New York-bound flight. The two had never met.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, Trump lifted the armrest, she said, grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. Leeds told the Times that “he was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere.”
Rachel Crooks told the news organization that, when she was a 22-year-old receptionist at a real estate investment and development company located in Trump Tower, she introduced herself to Trump when they were in an elevator.
They shook hands, Crooks said, and Trump would not let go. Instead, she said, he began kissing her – on the cheeks and on the mouth. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that,” she said.”
Later on Wednesday night, People Magazine published a story from one of its own reporters who claimed Trump had forced himself on her.
“He was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat,” wrote Natasha Stoynoff about the 2005 incident, which happened after the leaked audio with Billy Bush was recorded. She said that Trump later insisted: “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?”
The Palm Beach Post published a similar story told by Mindy McGillivray, who said Trump groped her 13 years ago at his Mar-a-Lago estate, in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Guardian reported that Trump deliberately walked in on two young Miss USA 2001 contestants while they were naked and getting dressed for a rehearsal, according to one of the former beauty contestants, who did not wish to be identified.
“Mr Trump just barged right in, didn’t say anything, stood there and stared at us,” one of the women recalled. Trump’s attitude, she said, seemed to be: “I can do this because I can.”
In addition, four women told Buzzfeed that Trump walked into the dressing room during the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant while contestants were changing. Some were only 15 years old.
“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here’,” Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA told Buzzfeed. Trump’s alleged response? “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”
In 2005 Trump discussed going backstage at beauty pageants on air with the radio shock jock Howard Stern.
In one episode of Stern’s programme he said: “Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it … I sort of get away with things like that.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests from the Guardian for comment on many of the new allegations. The Republican National Committee declined to comment.
But in a written statement, the Trump campaign vigorously denied the New York Times story, calling it a gross political attack.
“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,” senior communications advisor Jason Miller said.
It was later reported that Trump was planning to sue the newspaper. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway confirmed to the Guardian on Wednesday night that the Republican nominee was filing a suit against the publication.
The New York Times wouldn’t be the first outlet to face litigation from Trump. The Republican nominee’s wife, Melania, is currently suing the Daily Mail and he has long pledged to “open up” libel laws in the United States. Trump has previously threatened to sue the New York Times in a September tweet.
The Trump campaign sent out a retraction demand to the New York Times early on Thursday from the lawyers Kasowitz, benson, Torres and Friedman.
“Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se. It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy,” wrote Marc Kasowitz, a prominent securities lawyer also advises the Republican nominee on Israel policy.
Under American libel law as defined in the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, any public figure suing for libel must prove a defamatory statement was made with actual malice, “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”.
With polls showing Hillary Clinton pulling ahead in the race for the White House, her campaign jumped on the new allegations in a written statement from spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.
“This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women,” Palmieri said. “These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behavior he bragged about in the tape are more than just words.”
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said Wednesday that “Trump cannot win this election. It’s time for Republicans, and all Americans, to face that reality. And it’s time to reject the notion that he is the only option other than Hillary Clinton. Americans deserve better. Women deserve better.”
This is far from the first time that Trump has denigrated women during the 2016 campaign. He has called them “disgusting” and “animals”, has said a New York Times columnist had “the face of a dog”, and spent a week fighting with a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, a Latina woman he described as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”.
Additional reporting by Molly Redden.