Many people criticized Ivanka Trump for posting a "Times Up" tweet on Tuesday, but now an especially powerful voice has been added to the mix: that of Jessica Leeds, one of the women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign to accuse then-candidate Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her. When Leeds appeared on MSNBC's show The Last Word on Tuesday night, the Trump accuser said Ivanka's tweet was "very hypocritical."
Ivanka posted her original tweet in response to Oprah's lauded speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday. After receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Oprah spoke about the #MeToo movement and how it affects more than just the entertainment industry. She highlighted the story of Recy Taylor, a black woman who was abducted and raped by six white men in 1944 and who died only a little over a week ago.
"Just saw @Oprah's empowering & inspiring speech at last night’s #GoldenGlobes," Ivanka tweeted on Tuesday. "Let’s all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP!" Time's Up is a new campaign led by powerful women in Hollywood that focuses on supporting women outside of entertainment who have been the victims of sexual misconduct.
People immediately fell upon Ivanka's tweet to call out what they deemed to be her hypocrisy. They noted that Ivanka continued to support her father even after he was accused of sexual harassment or assault by 19 women during the presidential campaign (Trump denies the majority of these allegations, but did admit the veracity of the infamous Access Hollywood tape).
The ideal person to respond to Ivanka, then, is one of those women. So Jessica Leeds — a recently retired stockbroker who is also a mother and grandmother — did just that.
Host Lawrence O’Donnell began The Last Word with a fierce critique of the First Daughter. "Ivanka Trump has been an active co-conspirator in the enabling and covering up of her father's self-confessed lifetime of sexual assault and abuse," he said. He asked Leeds how it felt to hear Ivanka tweet that message after she failed to condemn her father.
"Well, it's very hypocritical," Leeds said. "It’s unfortunate, too, because you don’t want to speak badly of the president’s family," Leeds said. "But she’s totally misread the whole position and what’s going on in the world. Totally."
Leeds was allegedly assaulted by Trump on a plane in 1979. She found herself sitting next to him after her seat was moved to the first class, and he took the opportunity to kiss and grope her, touching her breasts and putting his hand up her skirt.
"I don't recall saying no, I don't recall saying stop," Leeds told NPR in October 2016, shortly after she came forward with her accusation. "I don't recall saying anything. It was like a silent pantomime. I remember at one point looking over at the guy in the seat across the aisle, and his eyes were like bugging out of his head."
Leeds says that she had not originally intended to go public with her story. At first she just shared it with her friends and family to encourage them not to vote for Trump, but when the candidate denied having ever groped a woman to Anderson Cooper on national television, Leeds decided that she had to speak out.
"I'm on my feet yelling at the TV, because, you know, 'Yes, you did!'" she told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! in December. The next day she contacted The New York Times.
Leeds also alleges that she saw Trump again a few years after the airplane encounter at a fundraising gala, and that he recognized her. "I remember you," she says he told her. "You’re that c*** from the airplane."
Trump has denied every part of Leeds' story and even pressed the Times to retract it (the paper did not). During a campaign rally in October 2016, he tried to defend himself by insinuating that he didn't find Leeds attractive enough to have assaulted her. "Believe me, she would not be my first choice," he said. "That I can tell you."
Leeds is one of the Trump accusers who is pushing for a congressional investigation into his alleged history of sexual misconduct. While Congress remains under Republican control, it seems unlikely that such an investigation will take place.