“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” Donald Trump snidely remarked of Jessica Leeds, one of a growing number of women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault in the past few weeks, at a North Carolina rally.
Leeds purports that she was groped by Trump in a first class plane cabin in the early 1980s. The Trump campaign has called her claims fictional and politically motivated, but the accusations keep coming.
Many of these women stepped forward in the wake of the release of a controversial recording of Trump making lewd comments before filming an episode of the Access Hollywood television series in 2005.
Trump admitted to attempted seduction of married women, remarking “…when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything…”, citing grabbing women’s genitals as an example. He stated that he often kissed women without their consent. Civil rights lawyer and sexual harassment expert Lisa Bloom noted: “Let’s be very clear, he is talking about sexual assault.”
When confronted about the recording in the second presidential debate, Trump denied having ever committed sexual assault, and maintained that his words were simply “locker room talk”. Many of his accusers have cited his denial as their reason for coming forward.
More than a dozen women claim that they were physically or verbally harassed by Trump. Many of these accusations come from contestants in Miss Universe and related pageants, all part of the Trump-owned franchise. Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington USA, alleges that Trump groped and propositioned her at the 2013 Miss USA pageant. Similar accounts have been presented by Ninni Laaksonen, Miss Finland 2006; and Temple Taggart McDowell, Miss Utah USA 1997.
Trump also repeatedly entered pageant dressing rooms unannounced while contestants were unclothed. Claims have been levied against him by multiple contestants from both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA; some contestants in the latter pageant were as young as 15 at the time. On the Howard Stern show in 2005, Trump seemed to confirm these incidents, relating that “I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant… And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”
Trump’s unwanted sexual advances extend past pageant contestants. The Washington Post recently reported that a woman named Kristin Anderson encountered Donald Trump at a Manhattan nightclub, where he reached under her skirt and groped her.
Journalist Natasha Stoynoff met Trump in 2005. At his Mar-A-Lago estate, Trump offered to give Stoynoff a tour, bringing her into a large empty room. Stoynoff claims that “within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat”.
Summer Zervos, a contestant on Trump’s show The Apprentice, purports that she met Trump to discuss future job opportunities at a Los Angeles Hotel. Trump then kissed her open-mouthed, groping her breasts and allegedly thrusting his genitals on her.
The Trump campaign initially responded by denying most of the allegations. Recently, Trump supporters have changed tactics, claiming that what Trump describes in the tape and what some of the women who have come forward is not sexual assault. Senator Jeff Sessions noted in an interview with John McCormack that “I wouldn’t characterize that as sexual assault…I don’t know. It’s not clear that he- how that would occur.”
When asked how the allegations have affected her perception of Trump, SLVHS Junior Lucy Archibald lamented “I try to see the good in everyone, but it’s so hard with Trump. To me, he’s really just a monster.”
The allegations have driven down Trump’s numbers in the polls, but may not mean the end of his campaign.
By Kahlo Smith