Trump denies sexual assault claims, attacks media for 'slander'
WASHINGTONOct 14, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Oct 14, 2016 12:00 am
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday denied reports that he sexually assaulted multiple women, attacking the media for spreading "vicious claims" and "outright lies."
"The slander and libel that was just last night thrown at me by the Clinton machine and The New York Times and other media outlets was part of a concerted, coordinated and vicious attack," Trump said at a campaign rally in Florida.
The New York Times reported late Wednesday that two women claimed Trump had groped and kissed them without their consent, and People Magazine later said one of its reporters had also been assaulted by Trump during an interview.
Trump charged the media were working to help rival Hillary Clinton win the election and called the media "the most powerful weapon deployed by the Clintons."
"Their agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any cost no matter how many lives they destroy," he said.
Clinton did not address the allegations directly, but told campaign volunteers in San Francisco that the US could not let Trump's "pessimistic vision" take hold and repeated remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama calling for Democrats to take the high road.
"When they go low, we go high," she said.
Trump said the Times article, along with an earlier report by the newspaper on Trump's treatment of a female employee, would be part of a lawsuit against the newspaper.
The newspaper declined a request from Trump's lawyer to remove the latest article from its website.
The report did not meet the lawyer's claim of being libelous because it did not damage Trump's reputation amid his own past sexually explicit remarks, the Times said.
"Nothing in our article has the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr Trump through his own words and actions, has already created for himself," Times lawyer David McCraw wrote in a letter to Trump's lawyer.
The newspaper also pointed to the need of the public to be aware of Trump's behaviour.
"It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices," the letter said. "We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern."
The attacks on the press are the latest by Trump, who routinely scorns the media's treatment of his campaign and has banned certain reporters from his rallies.
The Committee to Protect Journalists warned in a statement Thursday that Trump posed a threat to freedom of the press.
"Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values," CPJ chair Sandra Mims Rowe said.
Trump "would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious," Rowe said, warning that disregard of a free press in the US could embolden "dictators and despots" elsewhere.
The Times' story quoted Jessica Leeds, 74, who said Trump had grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight to New York more than three decades ago.
Another woman, Rachel Crooks, said she was a 22-year-old receptionist at a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in 2005 when she encountered Trump outside an elevator and he kissed her without permission.
Neither reported the incidents to authorities and never before made their stories public, according to the Times.
The allegations come almost a week after a 2005 tape was leaked to media on which Trump can be heard boasting about using his celebrity status to sexually assault women.