First it was Trump bragging about the size of his hands and other things. Then he was sued in a civil case in which a woman alleged she was raped as a 13 year old by Trump. There was verification that Trump hung out with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. There was the Playboy “soft-porn” movie Trump participated in. The next and perhaps most vile revelation came from the audio tape of Trump referring to “going down on a bitch” and “grabbing her pussy” and being able to do whatever he wanted because he was a celebrity.
Trump dismissed this latest audio tape as “locker room banter” as if that made it acceptable. He explained in the Presidential Debate that he had never actually done those things. He specifically denied ever having done those things.
“No,” he declared under questioning on Sunday evening, “I have not.” The problem is that he has. Jessica Leeds, 74, heard Trump’s denial and she was shocked that Trump would so publicly deny that type of conduct. Thirty years ago when Ms. Leeds was a traveling businesswoman Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”
She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.
Ms. Leeds has told the story to at least four people close to her, who also spoke with The New York Times.
Mr. Trump’s claim that his crude words had never turned into actions was equally infuriating to Rachel Crooks, a resident of Ohio. Ms. Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan, when she encountered Mr. Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning in 2005.
Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”
It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.
“It was so inappropriate,” Ms. Crooks recalled in an interview. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.”
Shaken, Ms. Crooks returned to her desk and immediately called her sister, Brianne Webb, in the small town in Ohio where they grew up, and told her what had happened.
“She was very worked up about it,” said Ms. Webb, who recalled pressing her sister for details. “Being from a town of 1,600 people, being naïve, I was like ‘Are you sure he didn’t just miss trying to kiss you on the cheek?’ She said, ‘No, he kissed me on the mouth.’ I was like, ‘That is not normal.’”
These stories were made public by Ms. Crooks and Ms. Leeds before the audio surfaced that has become the focus of the Presidential campaign. The accounts of these two women echo those of other women who have previously come forward, like Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah, who said that Mr. Trump kissed her on the mouth more than once when she was a 21-year-old pageant contestant.
In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.
“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.
“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.
Asked whether he had ever done any of the kissing or groping that he had described on the recording, Mr. Trump was once again insistent: “I don’t do it. I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”
But for the women who shared their stories with The Times, the recording was more than that: As upsetting as it was, it offered them a kind of affirmation, they said.
That was the case for Ms. Taggart. Mr. Trump’s description of how he kisses beautiful women without invitation described precisely what he did to her, she said.
“I just start kissing them,” Mr. Trump said on the tape. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
Ms. Crooks and Ms. Leeds never reported their accounts to the authorities, but they both shared what happened to them with friends and family. Ms. Crooks did so immediately afterward; Ms. Leeds described the events to those close to her more recently, as Mr. Trump became more visible politically and ran for president.
Also Wednesday, People magazine published an account by one of its reporters who recalled Trump “pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat” during an interview session at his Mar-a-Lago home. The alleged attack, according to reporter Natasha Stoynoff, came as Trump’s wife Melania, who was then pregnant, changed into a different outfit in another room before they continued their joint interview. The encounter was in 2005, the same year the now-infamous encounter with Billy Bush was recorded, according to Stoynoff.