21 Women Have Accused Trump Of Sexual Assault Or Harassment & Here's How They Describe It — UPDATE
This is a moment of reckoning in which many powerful American men are finally being held accountable for their actions. But one very important and powerful man, the president, denies every allegation levied against him and has seen little to no blowback. Yet at least 19 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and unwelcome advances since he announced his presidential run. Now, following the larger #MeToo movement and the tumultuous Alabama Senate race, it's time to dive back into the accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Trump.
For a few weeks in late 2017, it seemed as though politicians would be the one exception to the cascade of powerful men losing their jobs in the face of such accusations. However, now-former Democratic congressmen Al Franken and John Conyers both stepped down after being hit with allegations of sexual harassment, claims that they denied. Then there was former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who for weeks repeatedly denied several women's allegations that he initiated sexual encounters with them when they were teenagers.
But Trump has not yet been held accountable or even truly answered to the allegations against him. After several women spoke out again in December 2017 about his alleged behavior, Trump tweeted that the accusations were a Democratic conspiracy, "fabricated stories of women who I don't know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!" Trump has also reportedly denied the Access Hollywood tape's authenticity in private. Scores of female Democratic politicians have demanded a congressional investigation into the allegations against him.
The White House issued another denial that same week:
These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year's campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory. The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.
This is what makes his past denials about the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct so worth of a second look. Here they are in chronological order, with who knew at the time, and Trump's response.
1. Jessica Leeds
Jessica Leeds told her story to The New York Times in 2016, but it allegedly happened decades before, in the early 1980s, on a commercial plane headed to New York City.
"He was like an octopus," she told The Times. "His hands were everywhere."
Leeds was one of the women to speak out again this week. Trump responded through his campaign last year, putting forward another passenger on the plane as an "eyewitness" to dispute Leeds' allegation.
"I have only met this accuser once and frankly cannot imagine why she is seeking to make out that Trump made sexual advances on her. Not only did he not do so (and I was present at all times) but it was she that was the one being flirtatious," Anthony Gilberthorpe, 54, said in the statement. (Gilberthorpe is known for having lied to British media on multiple occasions; he has not offered any evidence for his defense of Trump.)
On a 2017 episode of Megyn Kelly Today, Leeds elaborated on the alleged incident on the plane:
After the meal was cleared, all of a sudden, he was all over me, kissing and groping and groping and kissing, and believe me — my memory of it was, nothing was said. He didn't say, "Oh, by the way," and I didn't go, "Eek," or "Help" or whatever. It was just this silent groping going on.
It does not seem she told anyone at the time, but she told the paper generally that such behavior wasn't addressed. "We accepted it for years," she told The Times. "We were taught it was our fault." Before going public, she reportedly told at least four people who encouraged her to tell her story.
Leeds also shared one new detail on Megyn Kelly Today: that she ran into Trump at a gala in New York City a few years later. "He says, 'I remember you. You were that woman from that airplane,'" Leeds said. She alleged that he then called her "the worst name ever" — as Kelly put it, the word that begins with a "c" and ends with a "t."
White House doubled down on Trump's claims that the women, including Leeds, were lying on the same day the Megyn Kelly Today episode aired.
2. Kristin Anderson
Kristin Anderson told her story to The Washington Post in October 2016 and said it happened in the early 1990s. She alleges she was at a New York night club talking to friends when someone put his hand up her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear. She says she shoved the hand away and looked to see it was Trump.
Trump's spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the allegation on his behalf, telling The Post:
Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity. It is totally ridiculous.
Anderson reportedly told the people that she was with, who she said were "very grossed out and weirded out" by the incident. Another friend, Kelly Stedman, heard about it from Anderson a few days later. Other acquaintances told the Post that they'd heard it over the years too, long before the presidential campaign swung into gear.
3. Jill Harth
Jill Harth's account relates to allegedly inappropriate behavior spanning a period of five years, from 1992 to 1997. Harth and her then-husband were doing business with Trump. She says he had been making unwanted advances for some time at various meetings, at one point groping her leg and thigh under a table at a dinner. Then, on a visit to Mar-a-Lago, Harth alleges that Trump attempted 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," Harth told The Guardian, "and I had to physically say: 'What are you doing? Stop it.'"
Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, denied Harth's claim to The Guardian, saying, "Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth as these 24-year-old allegations lack any merit or veracity."
Cohen pointed to emails from Harth in which she tried to work on the Trump campaign and said she was on "Team Trump." Speaking to a law website, Cohen called Harth a "pawn" in a legal dispute over a contract between her former partner George Houraney and Trump.
Harth details her allegations in a lawsuit that was filed against Trump in 1997. She reportedly told Houraney about the incident at the time. Harth had sued Trump at the same time for a contract dispute, but the suit was soon after. Harth dropped her lawsuit as a condition of the settlement, which Trump's lawyers imply proves his innocence.
However, it's important to note that her suit only became public in 2016 and that Harth stands by her claims. Furthermore, both she and Houraney spoke with The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof in October and gave near identical accounts of what happened.
4. Lisa Boyne
In October 2016, Lisa Boyne told HuffPost about an encounter with Trump in 1996. She said that she went out to dinner with a group including Trump, and that he allegedly ordered hired models to walk across the table where he was sitting. Then he would allegedly look up their skirts and comment on whether or not they were wearing underwear — and if he liked what he saw. "It was the most offensive scene I've ever been a part of," Boyne told HuffPost.
Hicks, Trump's spokeswoman, told the website it never happened. "Mr. Trump never heard of this woman and would never do that," she said.
As for who knew about the incident at the time, Boyne says she called a roommate that same night, who suggested she excuse herself and go home, which Boyne did. However, that roommate, Karen Beatrice, has denied being contacted.
The friend who invited Boyne to the dinner, Sonja Morgan, a cast member on Bravo's Real Housewives of New York confirmed that the dinner took place but not Boyne's account of Trump's conduct.
"I don't remember any of that kind of behavior," Morgan told HuffPost. "But I have been known to dance on tables."
5. Temple Taggart McDowell
Temple Taggart McDowell told her story first to The New York Times and later to NBC News. The past beauty pageant participant, a former Miss Utah, alleges that Trump kissed her on the lips upon meeting at the Miss USA competition in 1997.
"He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, 'Oh my God, gross," McDowell told The Times. "He was married to Marla Maples at the time. I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like 'Wow, that's inappropriate.'"
With NBC she elaborated:
I would have just thought to shake somebody's hand, and that was his first response with me. I remember feeling kind of embarrassed, like wanting to turn and bite my mouth, like, "What just happened?" [But] because he's the pageant owner, you're trying to make a good first impression. I just kind of shooed it off and kind of went along.
In response to McDowell's claims, Trump told NBC News:
I don't even know who she is. She claims this took place in a public area. I never kissed her. I emphatically deny this ridiculous claim.
McDowell also claimed that it even happened again in front of two chaperones, who told her not to be alone with him. They were not contacted to corroborate the story, and it's not clear who else knew before she went public.
6. Mariah Billado
Several contestants in the 1997's Miss Teen USA pageant told BuzzFeed News about Trump's alleged misconduct backstage. Mariah Billado, formerly Miss Vermont Teen USA, spoke on the record in October 2016 and accused Trump of walking in on the young contestants when they weren't yet dressed.
"I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, 'Oh my god, there's a man in here,'" Billado told BuzzFeed News; she claimed she remembered Trump saying, "Don't worry, ladies, I've seen it all before."
The Trump campaign released a statement addressing accusations related to the pageant. "These accusations have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present," it said. Their denial references 11 pageant contestants who told BuzzFeed News that they did not see Trump backstage and didn't think he would be able to.
But Billado was not the only one who says he went backstage — three others who asked to remain anonymous said they saw him backstage, two of whom said they were undressed at the time.
7. Cathy Heller
Cathy Heller told People magazine in October 2016 about an incident that allegedly occurred years earlier, in the late 1990s. Heller claims she was at a brunch at Mar-a-Lago when Trump pulled her toward him and allegedly kissed her on the mouth. She pulled back and said to stop.
"He said, 'Oh, come on' and he was angry," Heller told People. "He really grabbed me and he was holding me very tight to kiss me on the mouth." She turned her head a bit and he never fully planted the kiss.
"There is no way that something like this would have happened in a public place on Mother's Day at Mr. Trump's resort," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement provided to The Guardian, adding that Heller and her husband had other issues with Trump's Mar-a-Lago (the Hellers deny it).
Two people reportedly knew about it right away. One was a relative who was there and watched it happen. "I saw her moving back, trying to escape his grasp and he kept moving forward and it was almost like he was falling forward," the relative, who asked to remain anonymous, told People.
Heller also told her husband, Lloyd, right away. "I said, 'You should have punched him,'" she told People. "I thought he was a scary guy then."
8. Karena Virginia
Karena Virginia went to NBC News in October 2016 with her allegation against Trump. She was at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens, New York, in 1998 when Trump commented on her to other men in the vicinity, then allegedly went up to her, grabbed her arm, and touched her breast.
"I was in shock. I flinched," she told NBC News, adding that Trump then asked her, "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I am?"
Trump campaign Deputy Communications Director Jessica Ditto denied the allegations and attacked Virginia's lawyer, renowned attorney Gloria Allred, in a statement to The Independent:
Discredited political operative Gloria Allred, in another coordinated, publicity seeking attack with the Clinton campaign, will stop at nothing to smear Mr. Trump.
It's not clear that Virginia told anyone else at the time, saying that she was ashamed and blamed herself for wearing a short dress.
"I have been fearful of bringing unwanted attention to my loving family and me," Virginia told NBC News about the wait to tell her story. "But in the end, I feel that it is my duty as a woman, as a mother, a human being and as an American citizen to speak out and tell the truth."
9. Bridget Sullivan
Bridget Sullivan was one of the first women to speak out on Trump's behavior, back in May 2016. She told BuzzFeed News about her experience in the 2000 Miss USA contest.
The former Miss New Hampshire alleged Trump made her uncomfortable at a party. "He'd hug you just a little low on your back," she told the news site, and also alleged that he entered the pageant changing room while the contestants were naked.
"The time that he walked through the dressing rooms was really shocking. We were all naked," Sullivan told BuzzFeed. Trump campaign officials told BuzzFeed News at the time that the allegations were "totally false."
10. Tasha Dixon
Tasha Dixon accused Trump in October 2016 of walking into the backstage area of the Miss USA pageant in 2001, when Trump was owner of the competition. She told CBS Los Angeles that Trump walked in on the contestants while they were backstage, naked or half naked.
Dixon, who was just 18 at the time, told KCAL:
Our first introduction to him was when we were at the dress rehearsal and half naked changing into our bikinis. He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.
It put her in a "very physically vulnerable" space, she continued.
Then to have the pressure of the people that worked for him telling us to go fawn all over him, go walk up to him, talk to him, get his attention.
The Trump campaign released a statement denying Dixon's allegations. "These accusations have no merit and have already been disproven by many other individuals who were present."
However, that denial contradicts Trump's own words from a 2005 episode of The Howard Stern Show.
Well, I'll tell you the funniest is that I'll go backstage before a show, and everyone's getting dressed and ready 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. You know, I'm inspecting, I want to make sure that everything is good.
You know, the dresses. "Is everyone OK?" 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. But no, I've been very good.
11. Mindy McGillivray
In October 2016, Mindy McGillivray also came forward with accusations against Trump, telling The Palm Beach Post her version of what happened at Mar-a-Lago in 2003; she spoke out again on Megyn Kelly Today in 2017. McGillivray claimed she had been helping some photographers — among them, photographer Ken Davidoff, identified as her companion — at a concert at the resort when Trump allegedly came up to her from behind and grabbed her butt.
"All of a sudden I felt a grab, a little nudge. I think it's Ken's camera bag, that was my first instinct. I turn around and there's Donald. He sort of looked away quickly," McGillivray told The Post.
Hicks responded to McGillivray's allegation in 2016, telling NPR that "there is no truth to this whatsoever."
McGillivray reportedly told Davidoff right away; he says he didn't witness it but corroborated the rest of the story for the paper. The Palm Beach Post piece reports that McGillivray's family and others in Davidoff's family knew, too, with other friends learning about it after the beginning of the presidential race.
On Kelly's show, McGillivray reiterated her account of what happened to her. In response to a tweet in which Trump called all his accusers liars, McGillivray told Kelly, "I'm not a liar. ... It's time the nation wakes up to the reality we're facing."
12. Jennifer Murphy
Jennifer Murphy, a former Apprentice contestant told her story to Grazia in October 2016. Murphy said she was at Trump Tower for a job interview in 2005; afterward, Trump allegedly leaned in to kiss her on the lips:
I was thinking "Oh, he's going to hug me," but when he pulled my face in and gave me a smooch. I was like "Oh kay." I didn't know how to act. I was just a little taken aback and probably turned red. And I then I get into the elevator and thought "Huh, Donald Trump just kissed me on the lips."
Trump has not specifically spoken out about Murphy, but has generally denied all allegations made against him. In October 2017, Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down to say all his accusers are lying.
It's unclear who else knew at the time, but Murphy later went on CNN to set the record straight that she still supported Trump, planned to vote for him, and didn't mean for the kiss to become a big story in the media.
13. Natasha Stoynoff
Author Natasha Stoynoff was a journalist for People when she interviewed Trump at Mar-a-Lago back in 2005, covering his first anniversary with Melania. In a 2016 article she penned herself for the magazine, she described her encounter with Trump, in which he allegedly brought her into a room and assaulted her.
We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.
"You know we're going to have an affair, don't you?" she alleges he told her.
Trump denied her version of events on the campaign trail, suggesting that Stoynoff wasn't good looking enough for him to want to do that.
"Take a look. You take a look," he said. "Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so."
There were at least six people who knew about the alleged incident at the time, including a number of people at People; Stoynoff even reportedly called her journalism professor for advice.
14. Rachel Crooks
Rachel Crooks also first told her story to The New York Times in October 2016. The incident she alleged happened in 2005 when she was working as a receptionist at a company that Trump conducted business with. She claimed he introduced himself, kissed her on the cheeks, and then kissed her "directly" on the lips.
"I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that," she said.
Trump has denied it happened. "None of this ever took place," Trump shouted at a Times reporter last year.
Right after it happened, Crooks said she hid in her boss' office and then called her sister to tell her about it. In a 2017 appearance on Megyn Kelly Today, she said that she told her sister, "I don't know what just happened but I felt terrible."
That night, she also told her boyfriend. "I asked, 'How was your day?'" her then-boyfriend Clint Hackenburg told the Times. "She paused for a second, and then started hysterically crying."
Crooks added that Trump also asked for her phone number; "What do you need that for?" she says she responded at the time.
Another issue that came up on was the possible existence of security camera footage.
"Yes, where is that? Let's get that out because I would love for that to be made public," she told Kelly. "He owns the building, I doubt that's going to happen, but I'd be more than happy to let that surface."
That day, the White House doubled down on Trump's claims that the women, including Crooks, were lying.
15. Ninni Laaksonen
Ninni Laaksonen won the Miss Finland competition in 2006, and she alleges Trump touched her before an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.
"Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt. He really grabbed my butt," she told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat in October 2016. "I don't think anybody saw it but I flinched and thought: 'What is happening?'"
16. Samantha Holvey
Samantha Holvey was also a pageant contestant, participating in Miss America 2006. She first came forward in October on CNN and spoke out again in 2017. She alleges that Trump came backstage at the contestant to "inspect" them.
"He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat, we were just sexual objects, that we were not people," she said.
At the time of the first allegation, Trump and the campaign did not respond specifically to Holvey's claims.
Holvey told Megyn Kelly how it made her feel. She said:
It was "Hi," just looking me over like I was just a piece of meat. I was not a human being. I didn't have a brain, I didn’t have a personality. I was just simply there for his pleasure. It left me feeling very gross, very
The White House echoed Trump's claims that the women, presumably including Holvey, were lying.
17. Jessica Drake
Porn star Jessica Drake also came forward with an allegation against Trump in October 2016 at a press conference with lawyer Gloria Allred. She alleges that in 2006 at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Trump grabbed her and two other women and forcibly kissed them. She also says he then offered $10,000 and the use of his plane if she'd go back to his room alone. The Trump campaign fully denied any such thing happened.
The campaign told The Guardian:
This story is totally false and ridiculous. The picture is one of thousands taken out of respect for people asking to have their picture taken with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in ever knowing her.
"I did relate my experience immediately afterward to some friends," Drake said in her statement. "Out of respect to the other parties involved and their families, I will not share their names."
18. Summer Zervos
Summer Zervos also first told her story at a press conference with Allred, her attorney, in October 2016. She alleges she had a meeting at Trump Tower in 2007 to discuss potential business after she was a contestant on The Apprentice. She alleges Trump kissed her on the lips both coming and going.
Zervos had another meeting with Trump at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, for what she thought was dinner. She was brought to his private bungalow, where he was allegedly waiting in his pajamas. It started with an open-mouth kiss, she claimed. Zervos said she walked away and sat down elsewhere.
"He then asked me to sit next to him," she said. "I complied. He then grabbed my shoulder and started kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast."
She said that she got up again, but he grabbed her by the hand and led her towards the bedroom.
"I pushed his chest to put space between us and I said, 'C'mon, man, get real,'" she said. "He repeated my words back to me — 'get reeeeal' — as he began thrusting his genitals."
Trump denied this in a statement:
I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I've conducted my life.
As for who knew at the time, according to court filings, Zervos told a friend and her parents about the first kisses, and later told her dad about the hotel incident. She also told at least one friend the whole story back in 2010.
19. Cassandra Searles
Cassandra Searles, former Miss Washington, wrote a Facebook post in June 2016 about her experience at the 2013 Miss USA pageant. She never named Trump by name, but she reportedly posted a photo of him on Facebook and wrote:
Do y'all remember that one time we had to do our on stage introductions, but this one guy treated us like cattle and made us do it again because we didn't look him in the eyes? Do you also remember when he then proceeded to have us lined up so he could get a closer look at his property? ... I love the idea of having a misogynist as the President.
Then in another comment, she reportedly wrote:
He probably doesn't want me telling the story about that time he continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.
Trump never responded specifically to Searles, but he did deny all accusations against him during the campaign and has denied them since. The campaign also released a statement specifically denying the claims of misconduct at pageants.
It's unclear who Searles told and when, given that she has not given interviews to share her account. It was reported last year, though, that several other contestants commented on the Facebook photo and corroborated Searles' account.
20. Alva Johnson
Former Trump campaign staffer Alva Johnson alleged Trump kissed her without her consent while the two were at a rally in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 24, 2016. In February, Johnson told The Washington Post that Trump had grabbed her hand and appeared to be moving in for a kiss when the two met outside the rally.
"Oh, my God, I think he's going to kiss me," Johnson said. "He's coming straight for my lips. So I turn my head, and he kisses me right on corner of my mouth, still holding my hand the entire time."
In a statement issued at the time, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Johnson's allegations as fabricated. "This accusation is absurd on its face," Sanders said, per Vanity Fair. "This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts."
Johnson filed a lawsuit against the president in February in which she alleged Trump viewed her as "nothing more than a sexual object he felt entitled to dominate and humiliate." As Vanity Fair has reported, that lawsuit was dismissed in June after a judge ruled it was "a political lawsuit, not a tort and wages lawsuit."
21. E. Jean Carroll
In a personal essay published June 21 by New York magazine, famed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll alleged Trump assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman's dressing room in the mid 1990s. In a statement to New York magazine, the White House called Carroll's allegations "a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place." They went on to argue the story "was created simply to make the President look bad."
Carroll alleged she'd run in to Trump at the luxury department store's Manhattan location and begun to help him shop for a gift. According to Carroll, Trump began needling her to try on a piece of lingerie for him not too long into their shopping. She wrote that, at the time, she naively thought she'd get Trump to put the lingerie on over his clothes as a joke. Here's what she alleged happened after they got to the dressing room:
The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.
Carroll went on to alleged that, after pulling off her tights, Trump proceeded to sexually assault her:
He opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle.
The writer said she was able to "get a knee up high enough to push him out and off" before opening the door to the dressing room and running out of the store.
These details of the various accusations against the president show that this topic has not been sufficiently explored. The women in question have not seen any sort of justice or had their claims addressed, save for Trump's full-on denials. As noted, the White House called the women liars again in October 2017. Meanwhile, Trump has said he's "happy" that sexual assault incidents were being exposed.
Trump was able to get elected after saying he'd never done these things at a debate and having 19 women come out and accuse him of it. But maybe as this conversation keeps evolving, things will play out differently. Zervos, for one, wants something more to be done — she sued the president for defamation in January 2017.
And don't forget about a potential investigation in Congress — with Democrats as the House majority, that could very well happen.
Morgan Brinlee contributed to this report.