NEW YORK — A group of women who have publicly accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment and assault detailed their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by the businessman-turned-politician at a news conference on Monday.
“This was serial misconduct and perversion on the part of Mr. Trump. Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t rare in our society, and people of all backgrounds can be victims. The only reason I am here today is that this offender is now the President of our country,” said Rachel Crooks, a former Bayrock Group receptionist who accused Mr. Trump of kissing her on the mouth without her consent in 2005.
The firsthand accounts come as a public conversation on sexual assault and harassment — spurred by a series of accusations against high-profile figures in politics, Hollywood and journalism — rages throughout the United States.
At least 13 women have come forward with accusations against President Trump ranging from sexual harassment and misconduct to sexual assault, including unwanted kissing and groping. All the alleged incidents took place prior to his assuming the presidency.
The accusers include Temple Taggart, the former Miss Utah USA who accused President Trump of kissing her on the lips in 1997; Mindy McGillivray, who accused Mr. Trump of grabbing her backside at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2003 and Crooks.
President Trump has vehemently denied the accusations and while his top spokeswoman wouldn’t go on the record Monday, Sarah Sanders has previously said the White House’s position is that all the women are lying.
“Yeah, we have been clear on that from the beginning and the President has spoken on it,” Sanders said in October.
“The President has spoken about this multiple times throughout the campaign and has denied all of those allegations,” Sanders said in November.
President Trump opened the floodgates of accusations against him during the 2016 campaign when he downplayed the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video that showed him saying he was able to “grab them by the p**sy” because he was famous.
President Trump downplayed his remarks as nothing more than “locker room talk” at the second presidential debate and said he never kissed or groped women without consent.
But not all those close to the President have been so dismissive.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday that women who accuse a man of inappropriate sexual behavior — including President Trump — “should be heard.”
“Well, I mean, you know, the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard,” Haley said when asked specifically about President Trump’s accusers. “They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”
The renewed focus on President Trump’s accusers comes as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore fights to win a reliably Republican seat, despite accusations he pursued relationships with teenagers, including molesting a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s. Moore has denied all the allegations.
President Trump has stood by Moore despite the accusations and has raised questions about the women who have leveled the charges. President Trump traveled to Florida — just miles from the Alabama border — to rally support for the Senate candidate and has repeatedly tweeted about the need to back Moore and keep his Democratic opponent Doug Jones out of the Senate.
Two Democratic senators — Cory Booker of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon — called for President Trump to resign over the multiple accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against him.
The calls come days after Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, announced his intention to resign over accusations of sexual assault.
“I just watched Sen. Al Franken do the honorable thing and resign from his office,” Booker said. “My question is, why isn’t Donald Trump doing the same thing — who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward. The fact pattern on him is far more damning than the fact pattern on Al Franken.”