Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday rejected claims of women accusing him of sexual misconduct, and said they fabricated their stories along the media and established politicians to damage his campaign.
As Trump spoke at a rally Summer Zervos — an ex-contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” — came forward to accuse him of kissing, groping and thrusting his genitals at her during a meeting at a California hotel in 2007.
The Trump campaign said in a statement that he “vaguely remembered” Zervos, but shot down her accusation.
It later released a statement from one John Barry, identified as Zervos’ first cousin, claiming that Zervos had praised Trump for years. Barry implied that Zervos was upset because Trump refused to visit her California restaurant during the primaries.
Also Friday a former aspiring model, Kristin Anderson, told the Washington Post that Trump had sidled up to her in a nightclub in the early 1990s, reached under her skirt and touched her vagina through her panties.
They were the latest in a stream of women accusing Trump of predatory sexual behavior, adding to the woes of his now free-falling presidential bid.
His Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Friday called the election “incredibly painful.”
“I take absolutely no satisfaction in what is happening on the other side with my opponent,” she told a crowd at a campaign field office in Seattle, Washington.
The torrent of allegations against Trump was unleashed by the October 7 release of audio from 2005 in which Trump bragged that he could get away with grabbing women’s crotches because he’s famous.
“Lies, lies, lies,” Trump thundered at a rally Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina, referring to sexual misconduct allegations reported by the New York Times and other media.
“I have no idea who these women are. The stories are total fiction.”
“They are coming after me to try and destroy what is considered by even them the greatest movement in the history of our country.”
According to Trump, “the political establishment is trying to stop us because they know that we’re a threat to their totally corrupt controls.”
The latest Quinnipiac poll has the Republican candidate trailing his Democratic opponent among women voters by 20 points.
Trump also accused Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire and the top shareholder in The New York Times Company, of helping to generate the reports of sexual misconduct.
President Barack Obama, campaigning for Clinton in Cleveland, warned that much is at stake in the election.
He blasted Trump as a dictator-in-the-making, but also voiced concern about how the billionaire businessman’s legion of supporters might react to defeat.
“Tolerance is on the ballot,” Obama told a group of largely young voters in the swing state of Ohio. “All the progress we made in the last eight years is on the ballot.”
Many Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Trump. The most senior of them, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, angered Trump when he announced this week he would no longer campaign for Trump or defend him but would focus on trying to preserve the Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate in the election.