World / 13 October 2016, 07:20am / JULIE PACE and KATHLEEN HENNESSEY
Pueblo, Colorado - Several women levied allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump on Wednesday in a series of interviews.
The new claims add to already damaging revelations about the Republican presidential nominee's aggressive sexual comments about women.
Trump's campaign dismissed the allegations as having no merit or veracity, and it attacked one of the media outlets that published the women's accounts as acting on a vendetta. In a letter from his attorneys, Trump demanded The New York Times retract what it called a "libellous article" and apologise.
"For The New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr Trump on a topic like this is dangerous," Jason Miller, Trump's campaign spokesman, said in a separate statement. "To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr Trump trivialises sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election."
A story published The Times said Jessica Leeds, 74, of New York, told the newspaper she encountered Trump on an airline flight three decades ago. Leeds said Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. "He was like an octopus," she told the newspaper. "His hands were everywhere."
Rachel Crooks, of Ohio, said she met Trump at Trump Tower in 2005. Age 22 at the time, Crooks said Trump kissed her "directly on the mouth" against her will.
Trump denied the accusations, telling the Times, "None of this ever took place."
The letter from his lawyers said unless the paper removed the article from its website and ceased further publication, it would pursue "all available actions and remedies."
Separately on Wednesday, The Palm Beach Post in Florida reported that Mindy McGillivray, 36, told the newspaper that Trump groped her at his Mar-a-Lago estate 13 years ago.
People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff also posted a story about a 2005 incident at Mar-a-Lago where, she wrote, Trump "was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat."
The Trump campaign said there was no "merit or veracity" to either story.
Hillary Clinton's communication's director, Jennifer Palmieri, said in a statement the latest run of allegations "sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women."
The interviews come just days after the publication of a recording from 2005, on which Trump made a series of vulgar and sexually predatory comments about women. While waiting to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera, he bragged to then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush that his fame allowed him to force himself on women.
"And when you're a star, they let you do it," Trump said, adding later: "Grab them by the p----. You can do anything."
Trump has apologised for the comments on the recording, but also dismissed them as "locker room talk" and a distraction from the campaign. Asked during Sunday's presidential debate whether he ever engaged in the sort of conduct he described in 2005, he said: "No. I do not."
The Independent reports that a former Apprentice contestant claims she was kissed by Trump during a job interview in 2005 - shortly after he married his wife Melania. Jennifer Murphy, a contestant on the fourth season of the hit US reality show, said she had been invited to Trump’s office for a job interview and he had kissed her on the lips as she was leaving.
The 37-year-old told Grazia magazine: “He walked me to the elevator, and I said goodbye. I was thinking 'oh, he’s going to hug me’, but when he pulled my face in and gave me a smooch. I was like 'oh-kay’. I didn’t know how to act. I was just a little taken aback and probably turned red. And I then I get into the elevator and thought 'huh, Donald Trump just kissed me on the lips’.”
“I think maybe in his mind he may have thought of me and maybe fantasised, or romantically, but I didn’t feel at the end of the day he would take action. I would hope that he would be true to his marriage, and I was also engaged at the time,” Murphy said.
Despite her experience, Murphy said she would still vote for Mr Trump who she described as her “mentor”.
The Independent said it had contacted the Trump campaign for comment.
And in Hillary Clinton land...
The reports about Trump's conduct came at the end of a day during which an increasingly confident Clinton made only brief reference to her opponent's treatment of women - she noted his dismissal of the conversation as "locker room talk" - and did not address the new allegations.
Trying to float above the fray, she warned voters in Colorado and Nevada not to be turned off by the "pure negativity" coming from her opponent.
Clinton's campaign had signaled earlier in the day she would go even harder on Republicans, but after news of the fresh allegations, Clinton demurred. She continued to make newly prominent and explicit pitches for Democratic congressional candidates in tight races, including Florida Representative Patrick Murphy and Nevada Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto.
She had sympathetic words - serious or not - for Trump supporters who have begun to interrupt her events.
As security escorted one man out in Pueblo, Clinton said, "You have to feel a little sorry for them; they've had a really bad couple of weeks."