"Donald [Trump] looks at the Statue of Liberty and he sees a four... maybe a five, if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair," Hillary Clinton joked at the recent Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in New York. The Democratic nominee may have meant the statement about Lady Liberty as a laugh, but many women who have allegedly come in contact with Trump himself are surely not laughing. In recent weeks, the list of Trump's accusers has grown to include more and more women who are finally speaking up. Trump has firmly denied all of the allegations.
Rumors of Trump's exploits with women have hummed in the background of his presidential campaign for months, but it wasn't until The Washington Post published an 11-year-old recording of Trump that many women began publicly speaking out. In the recording, Trump described his behavior toward women in disturbing ways, claiming that his "star" status allowed him to grope and kiss them without consent. After the recordings were released, Trump denied having actually acted on those comments, dismissing them instead as "locker room talk," even during the second presidential debate. For many women who claim to have come into personal contact with Trump, it seems that debate was a turning point.
Since then, at least 12 women have accused Trump of inappropriate behavior. For his part, Trump has continuously denied any wrongdoing, and he has even threatened legal action against both the women who have accused him and the media reporting on their accusations. Even still, Trump's denials haven't silenced the allegations. And in the final weeks leading up to the election, that's a problem for his campaign.
In a New York Times story published just days after the second presidential debate, 74-year-old Jessica Leejds accused Trump of touching her inappropriately on a plane in the 1980s. She alleged that he touched her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt. A supposed British witness on the plane supported Trump's version of events. In response to the Times' story, Trump reportedly threatened legal action against the paper, while his lawyer demanded a retraction and an apology. (They got neither.)
In the same Times story, Rachel Crooks claimed that Trump kissed her on the cheek and mouth without her consent when she visited Trump Tower. She had reportedly introduced herself to Trump because the company she worked for did business with him. Trump and his lawyer responded to this claim with the same statements to the Times as in Leeds' case: threatening to sue and demanding a retraction and apology.
An alleged 30-second incident left former model Kristin Anderson permanently grossed out by Trump. According to The Washington Post, Anderson was at a nightclub in the 1990s when she claimed to have felt fingers slide underneath her miniskirt. She says she quickly moved away and looked around to see Trump sitting beside her. Hope Hicks, Trump's campaign spokesperson, reportedly told The Post , "Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity."
Shortly after the second presidential debate, The Palm Beach Post reported that a Florida woman named Mindy McGillivray was accusing Trump of groping her. The alleged incident reportedly occurred at his Mar-a-Lago resort more than a dozen years ago. Just after going public with her story, McGillivray said that she was planning to leave the country because she no longer felt safe in her home. According to CNN, Trump's campaign denies the allegations, and has confirmed that it will pursue legal action against The Palm Beach Post.
Temple Taggart McDowell
According to CNN, former Miss USA contestant Temple Taggart McDowell has publicly accused Trump of allegedly kissing her on the lips at least twice without her consent. The first incident reportedly occurred during a rehearsal for the 1997 Miss USA pageant. Trump owned the Miss USA pageant at the time, and Taggart represented Utah. Trump has also been accused of inappropriate behavior toward other Miss USA contestants and Miss Teen USA contestants. Trump responded to Taggart's claims by telling NBC that he doesn't know who she is and that he denies the allegations.
Speaking of Miss Teen USA contestants: Mariah Billado, a former Miss Teen Vermont USA, accused Trump of walking into the contestants' dressing rooms while they were changing. According to The Telegraph, Billiado is one of four contestants in the 1997 pageant who have accused Trump of such wrongdoing. "Don't worry, ladies, I've seen it all before," Trump reportedly told the girls, according to Billado. According to The Washington Post, Trump's campaign responded that the claims about Trump's behavior toward Miss USA and Miss Teen USA contestants "have no merit."
If Trump indeed wasn't afraid to walk in on underage women getting dressed, he seemingly wasn't afraid to walk in on just-barely-legal-aged women getting dressed either. According to former Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon, Trump walked into the Miss USA dressing room while women were half-naked or naked. Then, the women had to greet him without time to put on clothing. It does not appear that Trump has responded separately about Dixon's claim beyond his response to the other allegations from former contestants. That response has been a standard denial.
In 2005, however, Trump indeed bragged to radio show host Howard Stern that he often walked into the Miss USA dressing rooms: "Well, I'll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I'll go backstage and everyone's getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, 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."
Natasha Stoynoff, a former writer for People magazine, has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2005. Stoynoff had reportedly traveled to Mar-a-Lago on business — she was to write a story on Trump's first anniversary with his current wife Melania. When Melania left the room briefly, Stoynoff said that Trump pushed her against a wall and started kissing her.
The Trump response to Stoynoff's story was twofold. The Donald refuted Stoynoff's claims at a rally in Florida, saying, "You take a look, look at her, look at her words, you tell me. I don’t think so.” For her part, Melania issued a statement through a lawyer, calling certain details in Stoynoff's story false and demanding a retraction and apology.
"He took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips," Cathy Heller told The Guardian. She was speaking about an alleged encounter with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in the late 1990s. It seems that there are some common locations — in addition to common behaviors — in the stories reported by Trump's alleged victims. In response to Heller's story, Trump's campaign said in a statement, "The media has gone too far in making this false accusation," according to CNN.
According to CNN, Jill Harth was a former business partner of Trump's in the 1990s. At the time, Harth has said, Trump allegedly groped her under the skirt twice. Harth, like many other Trump accusers, has reportedly retained a lawyer to address the incident. Hicks, Trump's campaign spokesperson, said in response to these claims, "Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth." According to Vanity Fair, Trump also released emails from Harth, which reportedly show that Harth supported Trump's campaign after he announced his presidential bid.
Adult film star and self-proclaimed feminist activist Jessica Drake has accused Trump of offering to pay to have sex with her. In 2005, Drake reportedly encountered Trump at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in California. When Drake and two other women reportedly entered Trump's hotel room, he allegedly touched and kissed them without consent, reportedly offering to pay Drake for sex later in the night— an offer that she refused. In response to Drake's story, Trump denied the allegations, saying, "Oh, I'm sure she's never been grabbed before."
Shortly after Summer Zervos appeared on the fifth season of Trump's reality show The Apprentice, he reportedly sexually assaulted her in a hotel in Beverly Hills. Zervos alleged in a press conference in October that Trump had kissed her "very aggressively" and touched her breast. At the time, she had met with Trump to inquire about a potential job within his organization. According to Romper, Trump denied Zervos' statements and blamed the media for "creating a theater of absurdity."
The stories told by Trump's accusers have put real human faces and names to the allegations. Meanwhile, these stories seem to have had the opposite effect on Trump's campaign: His denial statements have felt robotic at best, with Trump threatening legal action against the media, blaming the media for reporting such stories, and altogether missing the point of the issue at hand. And as Election Day nears, it looks as though Trump has some real explaining to do. Actually denouncing sexual assault in America would help, too.