Donald Trump has angrily denied several accusations of groping in a growing controversy over inappropriate behaviour with women that is damaging the Republican presidential candidate’s chances of winning the November 8 US election.
Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the New York Times and other media were engaged in a concerted, “vicious” attempt to stop him, Trump told a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday.
“These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened,” Trump said, adding he would make public at some point evidence to dispute the claims.
Trump spoke after the New York Times reported on Wednesday that two women had endured sexual aggression from Trump, and several other women made similar allegations in other media outlets, putting more pressure on Trump as he lags Clinton in national opinion polls.
Trump’s campaign was already struggling to contain a crisis after a video surfaced last week showing him bragging in 2005 about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.
One woman, Jessica Leeds, appeared on camera on The New York Times’ website to recount how Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on a flight from the Midwest to New York in or around 1980.
The second woman, Rachel Crooks, described how Trump “kissed me directly on the mouth” in an unwanted advance in 2005 outside the elevator in Trump Tower in Manhattan, where she was a receptionist at a real estate firm.
On Wednesday night, Trump’s campaign made public a letter to the newspaper from a lawyer representing Trump, demanding it retract the story, calling it libellous, and threatening legal action if it did not comply.
“This entire article is fiction, and for the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” the Trump campaign’s senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement.
The New York Times said on Thursday it stood by its story and rejected claims the article was libellous.
The Times report came just two days after a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed Trump 8 points behind Clinton among likely voters.
Within hours of Times report, several other media outlets published similar reports. People magazine published a detailed first-person account from one of its reporters, Natasha Stoynoff.
Stoynoff said Trump pinned her against a wall at his Florida estate in 2005 and kissed her as she struggled to get away.
Trump, 70, denied the People story in a Twitter message.
The Palm Beach Post reported a claim by Mindy McGillivray, 36, a woman in South Florida, that Trump had grabbed her bottom 13 years ago while she was working at his Mar-a-Lago estate as a photographer’s assistant.
“There is no truth to this whatsoever,” Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Post.
The 2005 video has thrown a cloud over Republican hopes of retaining control of the US Congress and deeply split the party as a slew of elected officials have abandoned support for the candidate.
A spokeswoman for Clinton, 68, said Wednesday’s report in the New York Times was “disturbing.”
“These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behaviour he bragged about in the tape is more than just words,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.