After the release of a 2005 recording of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, Trump surrogates appearing in the media are defending the nominee by suggesting that the recording reveals just "words” and that he did not act on them. As proof, these surrogates claim the nominee has never been accused of committing sexual assault. But Jill Harth, a former Trump business associate, filed an unresolved lawsuit alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and is now speaking out again.
2005 Tape Of Trump Boasting About His Sexual Assaults Garners Media Attention, Debate Questions
Wash. Post Revealed “Hot Mic” Recording Of Trump In 2005 Bragging About Sexual Assault. On October 7, The Washington Post’s David Farenthold uncovered a 2005 audio and video recording of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting to NBC’s Billy Bush on a “hot mic” about sexually assaulting women. In the recording, Trump describes physically attacking women without their consent, saying, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” From the report:
Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.
The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side.
Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.
“Your girl’s hot as [shit], in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.
“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.
“Grab them by the [pussy],” Trump says. “You can do anything.” [The Washington Post, 10/7/16]
In Debate, Moderator Anderson Cooper Asked Trump About The Sexual Assault Tape And Trump Denied Ever Acting On His Boasts. During the October 9 presidential debate in St. Louis, MO, moderator Anderson Cooper repeatedly asked Trump about the 2005 recordings. As reported by The New York Times:
Mr. Trump did face notably sharp questions about the recording that surfaced Friday in which he boasts about kissing and grabbing women. “You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women — do you understand that?” Mr. Cooper asked. When Mr. Trump dismissed the comments as “locker room-talk,” Mr. Cooper pressed several times — “Have you ever done those things?” — until Mr. Trump finally asserted that he had not. [The New York Times, 10/10/16]
Jill Harth Alleged In 1997 That Trump Sexually Assaulted Her, And She Has Been Speaking Out Again This Year
Harth, A Former Business Associate Of Trump, Filed A 1997 Federal Lawsuit Alleging He Sexually Harassed And Assaulted Her In The 1990s. Jill Harth, a former business associate of Trump’s, took legal action against Trump in 1997, detailing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, including one instance her lawyers described as “attempted rape.” Harth later dropped the case as part of a deal to settle an unrelated contract dispute with Trump. [The Boston Globe, 4/17/16; LawNewz.com, 7/18/16]
Harth Has Recently Given Interviews To Several Outlets Reiterating Her Claims. Details of Harth’s lawsuit were reported in front-page stories at The Boston Globe in April and The New York Times in May. In July, Harth and her attorney, Lisa Bloom, spoke to ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams in an exclusive interview reiterating her allegations. Harth also spoke to The Guardian in July, and to The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof for a column published hours after the release of the 2005 Trump “hot mic” recording on October 7. [The Boston Globe, 4/17/16; The New York Times, 5/14/16; LawNewz.com, 7/18/16; The Guardian, 7/20/16; The New York Times, 10/7/16]
Harth’s Allegations Closely Match Trump’s Recorded Boasting From 2005. In an October 8 interview with Bloom, MSNBC’s Joy Reid pointed out that the details of Harth’s story “seemed to corroborate” what Trump described in the 2005 “hot mic” recording. From Harth’s allegations, as retold to The Guardian in July:
In an hour-long interview at the Guardian’s New York office on Tuesday, Harth said she stands by her charges against Trump, which run from low-grade sexual harassment to an episode her lawyers described in the lawsuit as “attempted ‘rape’”.
Trump took an interest in Harth immediately and began subjecting her to a steady string of unwanted sexual advances, detailed by Harth in her complaint.
There was the initial leering in that first December meeting in Trump Tower, and the inappropriate questions after her relationship status. It continued the next night over dinner at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room, where at a dinner with beauty pageant contestants she alleges he groped her under the table.
It culminated in January 1993, when Harth and [her partner, George] Houraney were visiting his Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago, to finalize and then celebrate the beauty pageant deal with a party.
After business concluded, Harth and Houraney were on tour of Mar-a-Lago along with a group of young pageant contestants – Trump wanted to “see the quality of the girls he was sponsoring”, Harth recalled – when he pulled her aside into one of the children’s bedrooms.
“He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again,” Harth said, “and I had to physically say: ‘What are you doing? Stop it.’ [The Guardian, 7/20/16; MSNBC, AM Joy, 10/8/16]
But Trump Surrogates Ignore Harth, Defend Nominee By Falsely Claiming There Are No Sexual Assault Accusations Against Trump
Scottie Nell Hughes: “There’s Been No Accusations” Of Sexual Assault Against Trump. Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes appeared on CNN’s New Day on October 10 to discuss Trump’s attempts to deflect from the 2005 recording during the debate. Co-host Chris Cuomo asked Hughes if Trump’s denial that he had actually acted in the way he described in the tape “will work,” and Hughes responded affirmatively. She claimed that “there’s been no accusations. There’s been actually nothing in the media that he actually took those [actions].” Co-host Alisyn Camerota pointed out that CNN’s Erin Burnett had already found a corroborating accusation of sexual assault against the nominee, and Cuomo then cited another case in New York state alleging Trump committed rape of a minor. [CNN, New Day, 10/10/16; Media Matters, 10/7/16; The Huffington Post, 9/29/16]
Kayleigh McEnany On CNN, Pre-Debate: “In A Court Of Law,” Trump Has Not Been “Accused Of Sexual Assault.” In an appearance during CNN’s pre-debate coverage on October 9, Trump surrogate Kayleigh McEnany responded to a question from CNN’s Jake Tapper about the 2005 recording by claiming, “We don’t have proof that Donald Trump acted in that way.” Over repeated challenges from Tapper, McEnany falsely claimed, “There is one person out of both of these families who has been accused of sexual assault in the court of law. One. And that is Bill Clinton. Donald Trump is not accused of sexual assault.” From CNN’s Debate Night in America:
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): On Friday, a tape was revealed with Donald Trump saying that, boasting about sexually assaulting women. Fact. It’s been discredited by -- it’s been denounced by Mike Pence and Melania Trump, to name two people. Is your passion for the victims of sexual assault, does it extend to whomever Donald Trump grabbed by the p-word?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: Of course it does. And, look, we don’t have proof that Donald Trump acted in that way.
TAPPER: Just his words.
MCENANY: There’s one, there is one person out of both of these families who has been accused of sexual assault in a court of law--
TAPPER: That’s not true.
MCENANY: One. And that is Bill Clinton.
TAPPER: That’s not true.
MCENANY: Donald Trump is not accused of sexual assault.
TAPPER: That’s false. That’s false.
MCENANY: Those are words, and we need to recognize that --
TAPPER: There are plenty of accusations--
MCENANY: There are many women out there, 20 percent of my generation, who saw that and it’s the first time they heard those stories.
TAPPER: OK, talking over me doesn’t make what you’re saying true. There are accusations against Donald Trump. There are accusations against Bill Clinton. [CNN, Debate Night in America, 10/9/16]
Kayleigh McEnany On CNN’s Reliable Sources: “These Were Words. There Were No Actions.” During a discussion on CNN’s Reliable Sources on October 9, McEnany responded to a statement from commentator Angela Rye by asserting that the 2005 recording constituted “words” and claimed that there were “no actions” in terms of sexual assault by the nominee. From Reliable Sources:
ANGELA RYE: Also talked about actions. This is -- we didn’t see it happen but he described things that he actually did. Grabbing women by the vagina is an action. So he took that action, and he was telling someone that’s what he did.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: There are no actions here. Those were words. There are no actions.
RYE: What you’re describing is action. [CNN, Reliable Sources, 10/9/16]
Scottie Nell Hughes: “There’s One Thing To Actually Say It; There’s Another Thing To Do It.” Trump surrogate Hughes appeared on CNN’s New Day Saturday to react to the leaked recording. Hughes defended the “hot mic” comments by arguing, “Well, there’s one thing to actually say it. There’s another thing to do it. … That doesn’t mean it actually happened. There’s been no proven cases.” Hughes later claimed that she would consider the actions Trump described in 2005 to be sexual assault only “if there was actions behind it, then I would say yes. But there’s no actions that say, that backs this up.” [CNN, New Day Saturday, 10/8/16]
Kellyanne Conway On Fox & Friends Cited A “Difference Between Words And Actions.” After stating that “nobody’s here to defend” Trump’s 2005 comments, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway cited Trump’s debate statements about “the difference between words and actions” and argued that labeling Trump’s comments as a description of sexual assault “demeans” victims. From the October 10 edition of Fox & Friends:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: I will first tell you that my reaction [to the recording] was a combination of what Governor Pence and Melania Trump and Donald Trump have said about his comments. I, too, found them to be unacceptable and offensive, and nobody is here to defend them, including Donald Trump. He apologized on Friday in a video post that everybody can see. Those are his words and he again repeated that last night. Said that he hated it. He was embarrassed. He apologized for it and then he also said the difference between words and actions, and talked about that very important distinction. The other thing I think is incredibly important, Ainsley, in this conversation is when Anderson Cooper pressed Mr. Trump on sexual assault, Donald Trump shot back and said no, that is not what this was. These are words. And I think there is something there, because this term “sexual assault” has been bandied about, and I will tell you as somebody who has worked with, and certainly has in my life, as I’m sure we all do, victims of sexual assault, it demeans them to equate that with this for political purposes. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/10/16]
Television News Is Starting To Cover Harth’s Accusations After Virtually Ignoring Them For Months
The Boston Globe And The New York Times Covered Harth’s Allegations In Cover Stories Last Spring, But Television Networks Largely Ignored It. In the week after The New York Times discussed Harth’s allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment in a front-page report, a Media Matters analysis of news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC found only one segment mentioning Harth’s specific allegations of sexual harassment and assault. A second analysis found that these major networks stayed virtually silent about Harth in the months after the Times report came out and before she did interviews with LawNewz and The Guardian in July. [Media Matters, 5/23/16; 7/19/16]
Television News Stayed Virtually Silent On Harth Allegations Throughout The Summer And Fall, Until The Recording Was Uncovered. An October Media Matters analysis found just four discussions of Harth’s allegations or references to allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault by Trump from July 19 through October 6, the day before the “hot mic” recording was uncovered, in all available Nexis transcripts for news programming on the six major networks. [Media Matters, 10/8/16]