“We brought four wonderful women to St. Louis and, honestly, it was both very beautiful and very sad. They’ve been trying to get their feelings out for so long, and the media wouldn’t take it. … Hillary Clinton systematically attacked and discredited the victims of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment and assault.”
–Donald Trump, campaign rally in Ambridge, Pa., Oct. 10, 2016

“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. … These events never happened, and the people that said them meekly, fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people, and you’ll understand also. … These attacks are orchestrated by the Clintons and their media allies.”
–Trump, rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., Oct. 13, 2016

Trump’s message for most of this week was that women alleging sexual assault — regardless of how many years had passed, whether they filed charges, whether their claims were held up by the courts — deserve to be heard, rather than discredited or attacked. Trump made this clear by holding a news conference with three of Bill Clinton’s accusers, urging the media to tell their stories and speaking about them in his rallies.

Then, four women came forward alleging Trump groped or kissed them without their consent. And Trump’s stance changed. He attacked the women personally, cast doubt on their motives, called them liars and a part of a politically orchestrated attack. Let’s take a look at his flip-flop.

The Facts

Oct. 7: A 2005 “Access Hollywood” video clip surfaced of Trump bragging in vulgar terms about kissing and groping women without their consent, as first reported by The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold. In a statement that night, Trump apologized for his words and then criticized the Clintons over how they handled sexual allegations made against Bill Clinton:

“Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days.”

Oct. 9: An hour before the second presidential debate, Trump held a news conference featuring Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Kathy Shelton. Trump introduced the women by saying:

“These four very courageous women have asked to be here, and it was our honor to help them.”

In the 1990s, Jones, Broaddrick and Willey alleged that Bill Clinton made unwanted sexual advances.

  • Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 1994, claiming then-Gov. Bill Clinton in 1991 propositioned her and exposed himself. A federal judge dismissed Jones’s lawsuit; Clinton later settled the lawsuit with no apology or admission of guilt while the judge’s ruling was under appeal.
  • Broaddrick came forward in 1999 to say Clinton had raped her in 1978, when he was Arkansas attorney general. She never pressed charges. She also claims that Hillary Clinton once suggested she appreciated Broaddrick had kept silent.
  • Willey in 1997 said Clinton groped her in his office in 1993 during a meeting to discuss a possible job. Willey’s allegation was investigated by an independent prosecutor, who concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove Clinton’s denial of her claims was false.

(Here’s a guide to all of the sexual allegations and consensual affairs of Bill Clinton and an in-depth look at the rape case of Shelton, whose attacker was represented by Hillary Clinton in the 1970s.)

Trump and his campaign attempted, then failed, to seat the accusers in the Trump family box so they can confront the former president in person.

Trump ramped up these attacks after the “Access Hollywood” video emerged, but he planned on doing so for months. In May, Trump began criticizing Hillary Clinton for being married to “a man who hurt many women,” and for attacking the women who made sexual allegations against her husband.

We have awarded Three Pinocchios to the claim that Hillary Clinton politically attacked the women. To support this claim, her critics have pointed to a Jan. 27, 1998, interview on the “Today” show. This interview took place a week after her husband was accused of having an affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, when both Lewinsky and Bill Clinton were denying a relationship or sexual history. Clinton blamed Republican foes and the “vast right-wing conspiracy” — not Lewinsky or other accusers — for making false attacks against her husband. Lewinsky testified about the full extent of their relationship six months after the “Today” interview, after which Bill Clinton confessed to his wife.

Insults like “floozy,” “bimbo” and “stalker” have been attributed to a broader “Clinton effort” to cast doubt and raise questions about the motives of women accusing Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.

Oct. 10-12: Trump and his campaign stressed the importance of giving a voice to alleged sexual-assault victims, particularly those connected to Bill Clinton. The campaign told Bloomberg it planned to launch a media blitz featuring Bill Clinton’s accusers (“We’re going to turn him into Bill Cosby,” Trump campaign manager Stephen Bannon said). The campaign planned to highlight a November 2015 tweet by Hillary Clinton: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway retweeted it and urged others to do so:

Trump said at an Oct. 10 rally:

Bill Clinton’s accusers “have been trying to get their feelings out for so long, and the media wouldn’t take it. One thing with me, the media takes it. Whatever. So they were able to get what they wanted to get out. To quote Juanita Broaddrick, ‘Hillary Clinton threatened me after Bill Clinton raped me.’ She’s been struggling to get the media to pay attention to her for many, many years. So last night, I decided we would expose the hypocrisy of the Clintons and the media and our politicians to the entire world.”

Oct. 12: Three days after Trump in the presidential debate emphatically denied he had sexually assaulted women, four women claimed Trump forcibly made sexual advances on them.

  • Natasha Stoynoff wrote a first-person account of Trump forcing himself on her when she was covering him for People magazine in 2005.
  • Rachel Crooks, who formerly worked at a company in Trump Tower, said Trump kissed her without consent in 2005.
  • Mindy McGillivray said Trump groped her at his resort in Mar-a-Lago in 2003.
  • Jessica Leeds said that Trump sexually assaulted her on a plane more than three decades ago.

None of the women reported the alleged assaults to authorities at the time, though they did tell friends, relatives and colleagues.

Oct. 13: Trump responded to the allegations by attacking the women personally, discrediting their stories, and blaming attacks “orchestrated by the Clintons and their media allies.”

“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. … They’re pure fiction, and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened and the people said them meekly, fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people, and you’ll understand also. The claims are preposterous, ludicrous and defy truth, common sense and logic. We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies, and it will be made public in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time very soon. …
Last night we hear that after 12 years — this took place 12 years ago, this story — a new claim that I made inappropriate advances during the interview to this writer [Stoynoff, reporting for People magazine] and I asked a very simple question: Why wasn’t it part of the story that appeared 12 years ago? … These people are horrible people. They’re horrible, horrible liars. And interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days before our very important election, isn’t that amazing?”

The Pinocchio Test

When it comes to alleged victims of sexual assault, Trump seems to have a double standard: The women must be believed, unless they’re accusing Trump.

For most of this past week, Trump advocated for accusers of Bill Clinton. He said it was “very beautiful and very sad” to hear their stories. He blamed Hillary Clinton for attacking the women and discrediting them — even though her criticism was directed toward the “vast right-wing conspiracy” by Republicans, whom she said started rumors about Lewinsky, rather than against Lewinsky herself. He made no reference to how the allegations were made in the 1990s, or that some of the alleged attacks date as far back as four decades — and that the women waited years to make their claims.

Yet when four women accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances, Trump flip-flopped. He called them “horrible, horrible liars.” He blamed Clinton for orchestrating the attacks with the media, similar to how Hillary Clinton had blamed the right-wing conspiracy for starting rumors of the Lewinsky affair. And suddenly, Trump cared that eight, 12 or 30-plus years had passed since the incidents that the women alleged.

Trump earns an Upside-Down Pinocchio, our rating for unacknowledged flip-flops.

An Upside-Down Pinocchio

Send us facts to check by filling out this form

Sign up for The Fact Checker weekly newsletter