Friday, October 14, 9am:
While you were sleeping, it was a busy time in America. From late afternoon yesterday and into the evening, accusations of sexual harassment and assault came thick and fast against Donald Trump, happening in real time. Yesterday The New York Times broke the story of two women accusing Trump of groping and forceful unwanted advances — amounting to sexual assault — in the 1980s, and again in 2005.
Jessica Leeds, then a businesswoman, said Trump began groping her when she sat next to him in a first-class seat on a flight into New York in the mid-1980s — “suddenly the armrest disappeared” — and he put his hands under her skirt. Rachel Crooks says that Trump forcefully kissed her on the mouth when she was working as a receptionist at Trump Tower in 2005.
Both incidents correspond exactly to Trump’s brag, on a 2005 Access Hollywood tape, that his fame allowed him to “kiss women on the mouth … grab their pussy” without asking — despite his claim in the second debate that such statements weren’t true and were “locker room talk”.
Through the evening, the dwindling band of Trump surrogates and flacks hit the talk shows to attempt a desperate defence, which amounted to: 1. why aren’t we talking about Bill Clinton; 2. why on earth are these women coming forward now?; 3. they just want their 15 minutes of “fame”; and, best of all, 4. the armrests on planes in the 1970s didn’t move up in the 1980s. This got very, very low, with AJ Delgado, a self-described “Trump Latina”, beginning her defence by saying that “as a survivor of sexual assault myself”, she found these women’s attacks on Trump disgusting.
However, while these defences were happening in real time, another accusation went live — Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine, said that Trump had sexually assaulted her at his Mar-A-Lago Florida resort, when she was there writing a profile of him and Melania on their one-year anniversary. Stoynoff said Trump had pushed her against a wall and began assaulting her during a private tour (“there’s this room you’ve just got to see”), and that only the intervention of his “faithful butler” stopped the assault.
These three accusations joined others — from former beauty pageant contestants who said that Trump would burst in on them while they were naked in dressing rooms. These included contestants from Miss Teen USA, who were under 18 at the time. Once again, this was exactly the behaviour Trump has bragged about on the Howard Stern show — “I own the pageant so I’m allowed to be there, I can just walk in and say ‘how’s it going?'”
Finally, there’s a video of Trump on an escalator in Trump tower, speaking to a small girl and asking how old she is. “Ten,” she says. Trump remarks: “In 10 years I’ll be dating her.”
The Trump campaign responded with lightning speed to the allegations, sending a legal letter to The New York Times, threatening libel. The Times responded with a letter pointing out that as the reports simply corroborate actions that Trump himself claimed he had committed, there could be no possible libel.
This morning, at a rally in Palm Beach Florida, Trump “pivoted” to a different strategy, reading from teleprompter a thundering alt-right speech about the behemoth of “corporate power” and the “international banking” cabal, positioning himself firmly in the centre of right-wing revolution, and constructing all the allegations against him as part of the vast conspiracy. However, the new discipline didn’t last long — his defence against the allegations by the People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff was “Take a look. You look at her … look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
That slew of accusations, corroborating Trump’s own claims, all came yesterday, in what has become known as the “October 12 surprise”. Yep, we’re now numbering them, daily. Stay tuned.