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More than ‘locker room banter’: Women say Trump sexually assaulted them

One woman filed a lawsuit in the 1990s.

Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

After initially writing off the leaked video of him describing sexually assaulting women in 2005 as “locker room banter,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a longer video apologizing early Saturday morning.

“Anyone who knows me, know these words don’t reflect who I am,” he said. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we are facing today.”

“There’s a big difference between words and actions,” he continued.

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But it isn’t just Trump’s words that paint a picture of him subjecting women to unwanted sexual contact. Other women have described experiencing the very behavior Trump described in the video, with one going so far as to file a lawsuit against him.

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In the video obtained by the Washington Post, Trump can be heard eating Tic Tacs and saying, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

That lines up with a story Temple Taggart, a Miss USA contestant in 1997, told the New York Times earlier this year. Donald Trump had recently bought the Miss Universe franchise, and Taggart said that when he introduced himself to her for the very first time he came up to her and kissed her directly on the lips.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, gross,’” she said. “I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’”

Another unnamed woman has given a written statement to CNN host Erin Burnett describing her own similar encounter with Trump. “The Tic Tacs, that’s exactly what Trump did to me,” she wrote. “Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested I take them also. He then leaned in, catching me off guard, and kissed me almost on the lips. I was really freaked out.”

She said he later asked her to come into his office alone and told her to call him, but she “ran the hell out of there.”

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Trump continued in the 2005 video, “When you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

That’s what Jill Harth has said she experienced when she worked with Trump in the early 1990s. She and her then-fiancé George Houraney, who was her business partner, were working with Trump on a beauty pageant. But at their first meeting in 1992, Harth said in a complaint she filed against Trump in 1997, he started making sexual overtures toward her and then put his hands on her thighs and genitals under the table.

Then in 1993 Harth’s complaint said that after the end of a business meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Trump forcibly brought her to a bedroom and assaulted her, touching her genitals and attempting to rape her.

“He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again,” she told The Guardian in July.

“It was unwanted and aggressive, very sexually aggressive,” she told WNYC in August.

Trump may have dismissed his discussion of sexual assault as a distraction, but Harth says it took a serious toll on her.

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“Let me just say, this was a very traumatic thing working for him,” she said in her testimony while the lawsuit was ongoing. She told The Guardian, “It was stressful, it gave me anxiety, it definitely wounded my marriage — it wasn’t the death knell, but it wounded it, it was stressful having to handle this.”

She eventually withdrew her case as a condition of a settlement Trump reached with Houraney over a separate lawsuit alleging breach of contract. Trump has consistently denied Harth’s account, saying it lacks “any merit or veracity.”