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In the wake of audio emerging last week in which GOP presidential candidate/reality TV star Donald Trump bragged about fame allowing him to get away with unsavory, sexual assault-y behavior, it appears as though women who may have been victims of the very behavior Trump described himself are beginning to come forward to detail their own personal stories. In the New York Times video embedded above, Jessica Leeds, then a businesswoman working at a paper company, describes an encounter with a young Donald Trump in first class on a commercial flight in the ’80s.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
“He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”
She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.
Leeds shared the story with others over the years; those people spoke to the New York Times and confirmed her account.
The other woman to come forward and speak to the Times is Rachel Crooks, who was a 22 year-old receptionist working in Trump Tower in 2005 when she says that Trump forced himself on her and tried to kiss her in one of the building’s elevators.
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.”
Additionally, the Palm Beach Post tonight published the account of a Florida woman, Mindy McGillivray, who claims that she too was groped inappropriately by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach 13 years ago. According to McGillivray, Trump grabbed her ass — while Melania Trump was standing just a few feet away — when she attended a Ray Charles performance at the estate to help a friend of her’s, Ken Davidoff, who was photographing the event. (Davidoff confirmed McGillivray’s account.)
After the show, Davidoff and McGillivray were standing in a pavilion behind the main house in the middle of a group of people. To their left was Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy, according to Davidoff. To McGillivray’s immediate right was Trump and his fiancée, Melania.
“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.’’
Asked about the possibility that what she felt was Trump or someone accidentally bumping into her, McGillivray said no. “This was a pretty good nudge. More of a grab,’’ she said. “It was pretty close to the center of my butt. I was startled. I jumped.’’
Trump angrily denied the claims by Leeds and Crooks when the New York Times contacted him for comment.
In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.
“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.
“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.
Asked whether he had ever done any of the kissing or groping that he had described on the recording, Mr. Trump was once again insistent: “I don’t do it. I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”
Earlier today, multiple former Miss Teen USA contestants came forward with claims that Trump would in on them while they were dressing and undressing without permission. Trump himself bragged about doing this sort of thing in a recently surfaced interview with Howard Stern in 2005.
“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,” Trump boasted to Stern. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good. You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.”
In the past 24 hours alone, a staggering volume of stories like these has surfaced. Wonkblog’s Matt O’Brien has compiled them all in one handy list.
UPDATE: About an hour after this post published, a People magazine reporter came forward with her own accusations against Trump. Natasha Stoynoff says that in 2005 she went to Mar-a-Lago to interview Donald and Melania on the occasion of their first wedding anniversary. When Melania went upstairs to change clothes for a photoshoot, Stoynoff says that Trump insisted on giving her a tour of the mansion, in particular one room he described as “tremendous.” She writes:
We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.
Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger — a looming figure — and he was fast, taking me by surprise, and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.
The butler informed us that Melania would be down momentarily, and it was time to resume the interview. I was still in shock, and remained speechless as we both followed him to an outdoor patio overlooking the grounds.
UPDATE – 10/13/16 4:30pm: The Huffington Post reports an account from one woman, Lisa Boyne, who recalls a mid-1990s incident where she witnessed Trump allegedly making advances on several women:
Boyne, a health food business entrepreneur, described a disturbing episode in the mid-1990s: While at a restaurant with her and others, she said Trump paraded women in front of their table, looked under women’s skirts, and commented on whether they were wearing underwear.
“It was the most offensive scene I’ve ever been a part of,” Boyne said on Thursday. “I wanted to get the heck out of there.”
Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks has denied this account as a fabrication. Furthermore, Hicks claims Trump has no idea who Boyne is and would never behave in such a manner.