WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump on Thursday emphatically denied allegations that he groped and kissed women without their consent, after a series of news reports published Wednesday evening in which four women accused him of unwanted sexual advances.
“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false,” Trump said at an afternoon rally here.
In perhaps his most contentious tone yet, Trump sought to discredit the media outlets reporting on the allegations by insisting, without clear evidence, that they are trying to help Democrat Hillary Clinton. He also tried to discredit his accusers in a deeply personal manner.
“You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” said Trump, singling out former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote that Trump kissed her without her consent at his Mar-a-Lago resort when they were alone before an interview with him and his wife, Melania, in 2005.
Trump called his accusers “horrible, horrible liars.” He claimed he can prove their accusations are not true, but he declined to do it on the spot.
“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,” Trump said.
At the rally, Trump’s supporters cheered loudly as he defended himself against the allegations, and one supporter shouted “Braveheart!” repeatedly as Trump told the crowd he was ultimately fighting for them.
Earlier in the day, Trump took to Twitter to deny the allegations.
“The phoney story in the failing @nytimes is a TOTAL FABRICATION. Written by same people as last discredited story on woman. WATCH!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referencing a New York Times report about two women who say he touched them or kissed them without their permission. He later corrected his spelling of “phony.”
The allegations have put Trump further on the defensive at a time when he trails Clinton badly in key swing states and has been abandoned by many Republican elected officials. He is campaigning Thursday in Florida and Ohio.
Trump also faced new criticism over vulgar comments he made about forcing himself physically on women in a 2005 video first reported by The Washington Post on Friday. Soap opera actress Arianne Zucker told NBC News that Trump’s words were “offensive comments for women, period.”
In the video, Trump is heard talking about Zucker on a hot microphone right before meeting her for a guest appearance on her show. “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
He adds: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Trump was asked at a presidential debate Sunday whether he ever did the things he talked about on the tape, including grabbing women “by the p---y.” He said, “No, I have not.”
But Trump’s answer is at odds with the accounts of the four women who spoke in the Wednesday reports.
Trump and his campaign spokesmen said Wednesday that all of the allegations are untrue. Early Thursday morning, Trump’s campaign released a letter from attorney Marc E. Kasowitz demanding a retraction by the Times. “Failure to do so will leave my client with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies,” it said. Trump said at his Thursday rally that he is preparing a lawsuit.
In response, Times general counsel David E. McCraw sent Kasowitz a letter defending the newspaper’s reporting and saying that if Trump disagrees with it, “we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
Newspapers spoke to people close to three of the women — a universe that includes friends, family members, significant others and colleagues — who verified that they told them their stories about what they say happened months or years ago. The former People reporter wrote a detailed first-person account for People’s website.
Jessica Leeds, 74, told the Times that she sat beside Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York when she was 38. She didn’t know him. Leeds said Trump groped her and tried to reach up her skirt. “His hands were everywhere,” she said.
Rachel Crooks, who was at the time a 22-year-old receptionist at a real estate company in Trump Tower, said she came face to face with Trump outside an elevator there in 2005. She said that after she introduced herself to him and they shook hands, he would not let go, then kissed her cheeks and “kissed me directly on the mouth,” the Times reported.
“I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that,” she said.
Days later, Trump, then recently married to Melania, came to her office and requested Crooks’s phone number, saying he planned to give it to his modeling agency. She said that she was skeptical, but agreed. She was never contacted by the agency, the Times reported.
Neither Crooks nor Leeds reported their descriptions to the authorities. But the Times quotes Leeds’s neighbor, and Crooks’s boyfriend at the time and her sister, each of whom said that the women previously told them about their alleged encounters with Trump.
Both Leeds and Crooks say they support Clinton for president, according to the Times.
Mindy McGillivray, 36, told the Palm Beach Post that Trump groped her at Mar-a-Lago in 2003 when she was there accompanying a photographer friend who was shooting a Ray Charles concert.
“All of a sudden I felt a grab, a little nudge. I think it’s Ken’s camera bag, that was my first instinct. I turn around and there’s Donald. He sort of looked away quickly. I quickly turned back, facing Ray Charles, and I’m stunned,” she said.
“Ken” is Ken Davidoff, the photographer, with whom the paper also spoke. Davidoff said he did not witness the alleged incident but recalled that McGillivray told him about it right after it happened.
Stoynoff, the People reporter who wrote that she went to Mar-a-Lago to interview Donald and Melania Trump for a feature story about their first wedding anniversary, said Trump kissed her without her consent when they were alone in a room.
“I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat,” Stoynoff wrote.
She wrote that he told her later, “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?”
On Wednesday, Rolling Stone published an article that included the allegations of Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington 2013. In a comment she appended to a post she had put on Facebook earlier this year suggesting that Trump treated pageant contestants “like cattle,” Searles wrote, “He probably doesn’t want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.” Yahoo covered her post and comment in June.
And CBS News on Wednesday reported 1992 footage filmed for “Entertainment Tonight” in which Trump is heard commenting about a young girl at Trump Tower.
In the footage, he can be heard asking her, “You going up the escalator?”
“Yeah,” she responds.
“I’m going to be dating her in 10 years, can you believe it?” Trump is heard saying.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the CBS report.
Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for Clinton’s campaign, said Wednesday the reports show Trump lied at the debate Sunday.
“This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women. These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behavior he bragged about in the tape is more than just words,” Palmieri said in a statement Wednesday night.