At an invite-only holiday party at the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House, Joy Villa, a singer most recognizable as the woman who wore a “Make America Great Again” gown to the 2017 Grammy Awards, says Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, “slapped [her] ass.”
She said she called him out on his behavior and he responded by saying he could get away with the unwanted contact, then slapped her again.
Villa, who has announced her own interest in a congressional run in Florida, told Politico that she’d never met Lewandowski before the party. She was a friend’s plus-one and said Lewandowski seemed uninterested in being photographed with her — that he rolled his eyes when he believed that was what she wanted. Though she says she assured him they didn’t need to take a picture “if you’re busy,” another partier “pushed her toward him,” Politico reported, so she wound up at his side for a photo anyway.
After the photo was taken, Villa said, “He smacks my ass really hard. It was completely demeaning and shocking.” She says she confronted him and “half-joking,” said that she could “report you for sexual harassment” according to Politico:
“He said, ‘Go ahead, I work in the private sector,’” Villa recalled. “Then he smacks my ass again.” Villa’s recollection of the incident was corroborated by a friend who witnessed the exchange. The friend said he wished to remain anonymous, in part because of Lewandowski’s continued influence in Trump circles.
Lewandowski did not return Politico’s multiple requests for comment. Back in March 2016, he was charged with simple battery after Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields accused him of grabbing her arm at a campaign event, knocking her on the ground and leaving her with bruises. Charges against Lewandowski were dropped, but the incident was caught on tape. Campaign press secretary Hope Hicks said that despite video evidence to the contrary, the accusation was false. Lewandowski did the same, tweeting that Fields was “totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.” Three months later, Lewandowski left the Trump campaign. But he remains close to Trump; last week, he attended a meeting on political strategy in the Oval Office.
Villa’s run for office has been supported by both Ivanka Trump, who Villa said offered words of encouragement at a Christmas party this year, and President Trump, who tweeted “good luck” to Villa in October “on her decision to enter the wonderful world of politics.”
Good luck to @Joy_Villa on her decision to enter the wonderful world of politics. She has many fans!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2017
After the second slap, Villa said, “Corey laughed in my face and ran away,” she said. “It felt like it was all a big joke to him,” she told Politico:
“It was the most ridiculous thing I have ever experienced,” Villa added. “It was shocking and gross.” Villa said she had been enjoying herself at the party. But after the experience with Lewandowski, she said she felt deflated. “It was like my bubble burst,” she said. “It’s how every woman feels when she is sexually harassed.”
Villa did not instigate contact with Politico; she consented to be interviewed only after an eyewitness to the alleged incident alerted a reporter.
Here’s the photo of @CLewandowski_ seconds before he slapped my ass, I told him to stop, and then he did it again. I was shocked and embarrassed by his behavior. https://t.co/61EYvOG4e9 pic.twitter.com/a8NgLnvCEZ
— Joy Villa (@Joy_Villa) December 23, 2017
According to Politico, Villa overcame her fears about speaking out because “the avalanche of women coming forward to tell their stories about experiencing sexual harassment from powerful men in media, entertainment, politics and other industries motivated her to agree to talk.”
It is unclear whether or not Villa found inspiration in the 19 women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to groping to forcible kissing and sexual assault. (As Lewandowski allegedly said his private sector status inoculated him against consequences, so too did Trump famously brag that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” — “it” being sexual assault.) The official White House position, as stated by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is that all of Trump’s accusers are liars.