A flood of newly published accusations that Donald Trump groped or inappropriately kissed women has further deepened the Republican nominee’s campaign crisis and rocked the race for the White House.
Claims by five women, whose accounts were reported by The New York Times, The Palm Beach Post, NBC, People Magazine and Yahoo News, came to light after he said in Sunday’s presidential debate with rival Hillary Clinton that he had never kissed women without their consent.
His spokesman called the claims “fiction” and “character assassination.” But the claims may further damage the billionaire businessman’s chances of winning the White House just four weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
Trump’s denial came as he tried to set his campaign back on track after a video recording from 2005 surfaced Friday in which the 70-year-old real estate mogul is heard making lewd boasts about how his celebrity meant he could grope women with impunity.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy’.”
When he meets beautiful women, he added, “I just start kissing them.”
Trump has apologized for the comments, dismissing them as “locker room” banter.
With just 27 days until the election, and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the driver’s seat with national polls in her favor, the embattled Republican nominee had sought to get back on the offensive.
But the series of explosive new allegations of sexual misconduct put more pressure on the Trump campaign.
Former businesswoman Jessica Leeds, 74, told The New York Times that Trump groped her on a flight in the early 1980s as they sat next to each other in first class.
Rachel Crooks said she was a 22-year-old receptionist at a real estate company in Trump Tower in 2005 when she encountered Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning.
She introduced herself and shook his hand, but he would not let go. Trump began kissing her cheeks and then “kissed me directly on the mouth,” she told the daily.
Also on Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post published an exclusive on its website in which Mindy McGillivray, now 36, alleged that Trump grabbed her at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida in early 2003.
The New York Times and Palm Beach Post spoke with friends and family of the women, who corroborated their accounts and knew of the incidents before the “hot mic” video was released last week.
Former Miss Utah Temple Taggart McDowell told NBC on Wednesday that Trump kissed her on the lips when she was a 21-year-old contestant in his Miss Universe beauty pageant in 1997.
More sordid allegations came from Miss Washington 2013, Cassandra Searles. Yahoo News reported that she had called Trump a “misogynist” in a Facebook post, and said in a comment that he had “continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room.”
People Magazine also published an account late on Wednesday by a staff writer who said Trump forced himself on her when she interviewed him at his residence at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.
The Trump campaign quickly fired back, calling The New York Times article a political attack and demanding a retraction.
“This entire article is fiction, and for the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” senior communicators advisor Jason Miller said in a statement.
ABC News reported three senior-level sources as saying Trump is drafting a lawsuit against the newspaper for defamation.