Editor’s note: This article contains graphic descriptions of assault.
At the presidential debate on October 9, Donald Trump argued that his recorded comments about women — asserting that he forcibly kissed them and would “grab them by the pussy” — was mere “locker room talk.” “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” Trump said. “Mine are words, and his was action.”
To prove his case, Trump — who defended Bill Clinton in 1998 as the “victim” of his “unattractive” accusers — brought these same women to a pre-debate press conference and attempted to move them into the candidates’ family box next to Bill Clinton at the debate. But in reality, Trump’s history of sexual assault is not mere “words.” Trump has been accused three times in court documents of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, and more than a dozen women have come forward to talk about their personal experience with Trump as a sexual abuser.
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Former Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt III described Trump’s history of assault in his book, The Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump. In 1989, Trump had scalp-reduction surgery for his bald spot. He blamed his then-wife Ivana for the painful results, because she had suggested the doctor. According to Hurt, Trump held down Ivana’s arms, pulled hair from her scalp, and tore off her clothes. Hurt wrote:
Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified…. It is a violent assault. According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.'”
In a deposition during their divorce, Ivana Trump called it “rape.” Trump’s lawyers pressured Hurt to include “A Note to Readers” from Ivana in his book: “As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” It is not particularly comforting to know that Trump’s lawyers extracted a statement out of his ex-wife that asserted Trump was so brutal and violent that it felt like rape but did not necessarily meet the legal requirements of rape. Unless Trump revokes the non-disclosure agreement imposed on Ivana, we may never know the full truth about what happened.
Although Ivana has now denied being raped (in 2015, she called the story “totally without merit”) she has never said that the details in the original story were false. Nor has Trump himself ever denied any of these details or released Ivana from any legal liability without preconditions so that she could speak the truth.
Resorting to an outrageous lie, Michael Cohen, special counsel at the Trump Organization, defended his boss in 2015 by saying, “Understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.” Cohen even repeated this astonishing claim: “It is true. You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.” In reality, marital rape has been explicitly banned in every state since 1993 and in New York, since 1984.
Ivana’s detailed rape accusation is not the only one against Trump. A Trump business associate, Jill Harth, accused Trump of “attempted rape” in a court filing. Her lawsuit claimed that on January 9, 1993: “Trump forcefully removed [her] from public areas of Mar-a-Lago in Florida and forced [her] into a bedroom belonging to defendant’s daughter Ivanka, wherein [Trump] forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained [her] from leaving, against [her] will and despite her protests.” Harth told Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times that Trump took her and her boyfriend to dinner and a club and then, according to Kristof, “ran his hands up her skirt, to her crotch.” Trump’s recorded comments on the Access Hollywood bus were not mere words, but the confession of Trump’s modus operandi.
In another lawsuit currently ongoing, Trump was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. “Plaintiff was enticed by promises of money and a modeling career to attend a series of parties, with other similarly situated minor females, held at a New York City residence that was being used by Defendant Jeffrey Epstein. At least four of the parties were attended by Defendant Trump.” According to the suit:
Defendant Trump initiated sexual contact with Plaintiff at four different parties. On the fourth and final sexual encounter with Defendant Trump, Defendant Trump tied Plaintiff to a bed, exposed himself to Plaintiff, and then proceeded to forcibly rape Plaintiff. During the course of this savage sexual attack, Plaintiff loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop but with no effect. Defendant Trump responded to Plaintiff’s pleas by violently striking Plaintiff in the face with his open hand and screaming that he would do whatever he wanted.
Another woman certified in the lawsuit, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the Plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.”
Trump has denied the charges. But Trump publicly embraced Epstein, a billionaire and documented pedophile, before he spent more than a year in prison for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. Trump told New York magazine:
I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy, he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.
Considering that Trump routinely dated women much younger than himself, the fact that he referred to Epstein liking women “on the younger side” indicates his awareness of Epstein’s pedophilia.
Trump has a long history of indifference to sexual assault. In 1992, Trump defended boxer Mike Tyson, claiming that after Tyson was convicted of sexual assault, the boxer had been “railroaded,” and Trump blamed the victim: “You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will. You have a young woman seen dancing for the beauty contest — dancing with a big smile on her face, looked happy as can be.” Trump also suggested Tyson should be allowed to pay “millions and millions” of dollars for rape instead of serving jail time. In 2016, Trump went to Indianapolis, where Tyson was convicted of rape, and praised Tyson’s endorsement of him: “Mike Tyson endorsed me. I love it…. You know, all the tough guys endorse me.” When he was asked about Tyson’s rape conviction, Trump said, “I don’t know anything about his trial. I really don’t.”
While Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct has been repeatedly investigated and reported on in the media (even though it is inconceivable to blame Hillary Clinton for it), Trump’s own history of sexual assault has been largely kept under wraps by the mainstream media. In all of the debates and his on-camera interviews, Trump has never been asked about these three allegations of sexual assault, and his broad denials since the release of his taped comments have sparked no media reports.
It was Trump’s own words, and his absolute denial that he ever did any of the things he bragged about to Billy Bush, that caused so many women to come forward to break the silence about Trump’s history of sexual abuse.
One type of sexual abuse Trump openly engaged in was walking into dressing rooms at the pageants he owned to leer at the naked women. Five contestants who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant declared that Trump walked through their dressing rooms while women (some as young as 15) were changing. Miss Vermont Teen USA Mariah Billado recalled Trump saying something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”
Tasha Dixon, the former Miss Arizona, told CBS that Trump walked into the 2001 Miss USA changing room while some girls were fully naked, and another contestant confirmed it.
We know that allegations like these are true because Trump admitted doing exactly that during a 2005 interview with Howard Stern: “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…. You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”
Trump also used his power as the pageant owner to target these women for his sexual attacks. Temple Taggart reported that in 1997, when she was 21 and Miss Utah, Trump introduced himself by kissing her on the lips. Cassandra Searles, Miss Washington 2013, declared: “he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.”
Trump attacked women almost anywhere. Jessica Leeds was sitting in first-class with Donald Trump on a plane trip in the 1980s when Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
Kristin Anderson told The Washington Post about what happened at a nightclub in 1992 when she was sitting next to Trump: his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear.
In the 1990s, Trump grabbed Cathy Heller and tried to kiss her on the mouth at Mar-a-Lago.
Mindy McGillivray was working at Mar-a-Lago in 2003 with photographer Ken Davidoff, who recalled that she told him, “Donald just grabbed my ass!”
Rachel Crooks in 2005 outside an elevator introduced herself to Trump, who “kissed me directly on the mouth” and wouldn’t let go of her hand.
In 2005 People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff was doing a story about Trump and his pregnant wife Melania in anticipation of their happy anniversary when she says Trump attacked her: “he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.” She added that Trump said, “Have you ever been to Peter Luger’s for steaks? I’ll take you. We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.”
Summer Zervos, a former candidate on The Apprentice, said that in 2007 Trump kissed her twice on the mouth and grabbed her breast.
CNN’s Erin Burnett cited what a friend of hers said happened in Trump’s boardroom in 2010 (and a male colleague in the room confirmed): “That’s exactly what Trump did to me. Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested that I take them also. He then leaned in … catching me off guard and kissed me almost on the lips. I was really freaked out.”
Even Trump supporter and Apprentice contestant Jennifer Murphy noted, “Yes, he kissed me on the lips.” According to Murphy, Trump “said that he still wants to give me an opportunity to work for him. So after several meetings he walked me to the elevator at one point, and he did reach in and give me a little kiss.”
No, kissing people on the lips after a business meeting for a job offer is absolutely not normal and not acceptable. These were all strangers or women with whom Trump had a professional relationship.
Trump has offered a completely implausible defense: “These claims are all fabricated.” Trump even claimed that Leeds was not attractive enough to merit his attention: “Believe me — she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”
This isn’t the first time in this campaign that Trump has lied when making a blanket denial of his sexual misbehavior. Earlier this year, a recording appeared of Trump pretending to be his own publicist, calling himself “John Miller” while talking to a People magazine reporter to make up false stories about having sex with various celebrities. Trump emphatically denied that the voice was his, repeating three times, “it was not me on the phone.”
But in 1991, People magazine printed a story about Trump admitting that he did it: “The John Miller fiasco he called a joke gone awry. ‘What I did became a good time at Marla’s expense, and I’m very sorry,’ says the newly humbled tycoon.”
Obviously, if Trump had not been posing as “John Miller,” he would never have apologized to the reporter or allowed People magazine to print his embarrassing apology without suing them.
So we know with certainty that Trump lied this year about an embarrassing sex scandal. Why wouldn’t he lie about his history as a sexual predator?
Trump also defended himself by saying, “Bill Clinton has actually abused women … mine are words, his was action.” Trump claimed, “There’s never been anyone in the history of politics who has been so abusive of women.” Trump’s nonconsensual sexual abuses are far more extensive than anything alleged against Bill Clinton. Anyone who believes Bill Clinton is a sexual abuser must logically believe the same about Trump.
Trump’s sexual attacks reveal a lot about him. He routinely and violently abuses his power and his celebrity. Trump is a hateful sexist who treats women as objects for him to use. And Trump’s absolute denials show his pattern of malicious lying.