Trump calls allegations by women ‘false smears’
Donald Trump pushed back aggressively on Thursday against what he called “false smears” from women who claimed unwanted advances, seeking to stabilize his campaign as Michelle Obama declared “it doesn’t matter what party you belong to, no woman deserves to be treated this way.”
The dueling addresses showed how the race had been galvanized by reports of Trump’s behavior with the election less than four weeks away, with Trump calling the disclosures a “horror show of lies” as they increasingly consumed his campaign.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday night that two women said Trump had touched them inappropriately, groping them and kissing them forcefully in ways that echoed the boasts he made of being able to sexually assault women on a 2005 recording released last week.
Other news organizations, including The Palm Beach Post, BuzzFeed and People magazine, reported stories about women who had troubling encounters with Trump. He has said that he never acted on his “locker room talk” captured in the 2005 video.
Response: In a series of messages posted on Twitter on Thursday morning, Trump said that the article in The Times was a “total fabrication” and denied the incident described by Natasha Stoynoff, a former writer for People, who said that Trump had forced his tongue down her throat while she was working on an assignment for the magazine about his first anniversary with his wife, Melania.
At a rally Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump lashed out at the news media for buttressing Hillary Clinton’s campaign, calling the reports about his inappropriate behavior “false smears.”
“Anyone who challenges them is deemed a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and morally deformed,” he said of the news media, repeatedly singling out the “failing New York Times.”
“They will seek to destroy everything about you, including your reputation,” Trump said. “They will lie, lie, lie, and they will do worse than that.”
Trump also threatened to take legal action on Wednesday night in response to the new allegations and threatened, through his lawyer, to sue The Times for libel if it did not retract the article and apologize.
“Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se,” Marc E. Kasowitz, Trump’s lawyer, wrote in a letter to The Times. “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.”
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said in a statement, “We stand by the story, which falls clearly into the realm of public service journalism.”
The Times has said it will not retract the article and welcomed the opportunity to take the matter to court.
First lady: The Clinton campaign said that the latest revelations were more evidence that Trump was unfit to be president and showed that he lied on the debate stage on Sunday night.
At a rally Thursday in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama, the first lady, ripped into Trump and said that his treatment of women was a sign of weakness.
“We simply cannot endure this or expose our children to it any longer, not for another minute, let alone another four years,” Obama said.
She added, “Now is the time to stand up and say enough is enough.”
Campaign: The Trump campaign has been thrown into turmoil by the allegations and the damage that the recording has done to his standing with women and with the Republican leaders who have disavowed him or revoked their endorsements.
National and state polls show Trump’s support has plummeted in the last two weeks. In an effort to turn things around, he has stepped up his personal attacks on Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Trump also dispatched his daughter Ivanka to the Pennsylvania suburbs on Thursday in the hope that she can lift his standing in the crucial swing state.
Some of Trump’s staunchest allies have been unusually critical of him during the most difficult stretch of his campaign.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and presidential candidate in 2012 who wanted to be Trump’s running mate, suggested on Thursday that there were two Donald Trumps.
“There’s a big Trump and a little Trump,” he said on the Fox Business Network. “The little Trump is frankly pathetic.”
However, not all of Trump’s supporters were ready to find fault with the candidate.
Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent evangelical Christian leader who is the president of Liberty University in Virginia, said that he did not believe the allegations made against Trump and defended his character.
“That videotape that was released last week, I think there’s a different Donald Trump now,” Falwell told CNN. “Unlike Hillary, I believe all people are redeemable, and I believe his life has changed.”
Rally: At Trump’s rally in West Palm Beach, the candidate’s most ardent fans stood by him.
“I hope it’s not true, but I can’t look at that right now,” said Karen Hainline, 54, of Wellington, Florida. “I have to look at who is going to run our country and make jobs. We’re getting people beheaded in our own country. We need security.”
Trump said that he would soon provide evidence that the allegations of improper behavior were not true. He claimed that the women who were coming forward were not properly vetted and that in some cases their stories did not add up.
As for Stoynoff, the former People magazine writer, Trump appeared to imply that she was not attractive enough for him to hit on.
“Look at her, look at her words,” Trump said. “I don’t think so.”
But it was The Times that was the particular target of his scorn, suggesting that “the great editors of the past from The New York Times and others, ladies and gentleman, are spinning in their grave.”
“The story was a fraud and a big embarrassment to The New York Times,” Trump said. “And it was a big front page story. Front page, center, color picture, a disgrace.”
He added, “It will be part of the lawsuit we are preparing against them.”
Trump appeared to take comfort from the cheering crowd as he lamented the hurtfulness of the attacks he has been facing.
Describing the “horror show of lies, deceptions and malicious attacks,” Trump told his supporters, “nevertheless, I take all these slings and arrows, gladly, for you.”