In President Trump’s marathon news conference on Sept. 26, he repeated many false claims that we have repeatedly checked in our database of false and misleading claims, including that U.S. Steel is planning to open eight plants (no), that he’s spent $3.2 billion on a wall with Mexico (no) and that the U.S. economy is the best ever (no). Rather than re-plow old ground, we’re going to focus tightly in this roundup on Trump’s claims about women and sexual misconduct in the context of the furor surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me. We caught them and the mainstream media refused to put it on television. They refused to even write about it. There were four women, and maybe more. I think the number’s four or five. But one had her mortgage paid off her house, $52,000. Another one had other things happen. And the one that reported it I believe was offered $750,000 to say bad things about me.”
There is no evidence of payments to any of the 13 women who have publicly come forward with claims that Trump had physically touched them inappropriately in some way. There’s also no evidence that they are making up stories, as many told friends or family about the incidents at the time.
Trump appears to be talking about some modest efforts to raise money to defray legal expenses. Gloria Allred, a women’s rights lawyer, has been raising money to fund a lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who says Trump sexually assaulted her and has filed a defamation suit against him.
Allred’s daughter, the lawyer Lisa Bloom, set up a GoFundMe account for her client Jill Harth, which so far has only raised $2,317 of a $10,000 goal, and facilitated a donation that paid off the mortgage on Harth’s apartment in Queens. Harth, who said Trump pursued her and groped her when she worked with him on a beauty pageant in the early 1990s, has noted that she did not come forward with her story but was outed by media, which had discovered an old lawsuit.
During the campaign, Trump authorized payments of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to Karen McDougal to prevent them from telling stories to the media about alleged affairs with him.
“Those woman — they’re incredible women. They went on television — and they didn’t want to and I didn’t ask them — and they said the New York Times made it up. They gave false quotes. And they went on a lot of shows. They were really incensed and they couldn’t believe it.”
Trump conflates a lot of things here into a misleading tale. The New York Times in 2016 ran a long article about how Trump treated women in private. The opening anecdote concerned a former paramour, Rowanne Brewer Lane, depicting how he had asked her to put on a bikini and announced she was a “stunning Trump girl.” After the article appeared, Lane said it was “upsetting” to read how the Times put a negative connotation on the incident. “I don’t appreciate them making it look like that I was saying it was a negative experience, because it was not,” she told Fox News.
Lane did not provide a single example of being misquoted.
“I’ve had many false charges. I had a woman sitting in an airplane and I attacked her while people were coming onto the plane.”
Trump is referring to a 2016 interview in the New York Times with Jessica Leeds, who described an encounter with Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight more than three decades ago, when she was a traveling business executive at a paper company. It did not take place as people were coming onto the plane, as Trump claimed. Instead, about 45 minutes after takeoff, she said, Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt, she said. “He was like an octopus,” Leeds said. “His hands were everywhere.” She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.
Leeds told the story to at least four people close to her, who also spoke with the Times. The Trump campaign offered the perspective of a British man who claimed to have sat near the two on the plane and somehow three decades later remembered the incident in detail. “She was the one being flirtatious,” he said.
“Well, the FBI told us they’ve investigated Judge Kavanaugh six times, five times — many times over the years. They know him very well. But here there was nothing to investigate from at least one standpoint — they didn’t know the location, they didn’t know the time, they didn’t know the year — they didn’t know anything. And it’s like, where do you go?”
The FBI was used in 1991 to investigate sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, nominated to the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush, by Anita Hill, a former University of Oklahoma law professor. There is nothing to prevent the FBI from updating a previous background check in light of new information. A standard FBI background check, which is what was completed as part of Kavanaugh’s vetting for the Supreme Court, looks for “current problems” and probably wouldn’t have covered allegations that both were not yet public and are three decades old. If the White House were to ask for an expanded background check, the FBI would have the ability to investigate the various claims and add to its existing report.
Given that some of the allegations have been contradictory — such as claims about the involvement of Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh — and the timelines are unclear, an FBI investigation might help resolve discrepancies since statements would be taken under oath.
“Also it’s not for the FBI, if you look at what Joe Biden said, he said, ‘They don’t do this,’ and he said it very clearly.”
In an effort to rebut demands from Democrats that the FBI investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, conservatives have drawn attention to comments made by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) in 1991, during the Thomas confirmation, that FBI investigations into sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominees were inconclusive. A report from such an investigation would rehash people’s versions of events without reaching a meaningful conclusion about what had actually happened, Biden said.
“The next person who refers to an FBI report as being worth anything obviously doesn’t understand anything,” Biden said. “FBI explicitly does not, in this case or any other case, reach a conclusion, period. Period.”
But that argument is undercut by the fact that Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) — who is still on the Senate Judiciary committee — argued for using the FBI report. “I used an FBI report under very fair circumstances, and they couldn’t be more fair,” Hatch said.
“You know I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen — 52 percent.”
This is one of the president’s new favorite factoids, but he continually leaves out a crucial caveat: Fifty-two percent of white women voted for him in the 2016 election, not all women, according to exit polls. Trump lost women overall, gaining 41 percent of the women’s vote. He also lost among all nonwhite women.
Since taking office, Trump’s approval ratings among women have continued to decline. According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll from early July, Trump’s approval rating among women was 32 percent. That is slightly more than 10 points lower than his overall approval rating at that time.
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