“None of this took place:” Trump threatens to sue New York Times over sexual harassment report
WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
Lawyers for Donald Trump are “drafting” a lawsuit against The New York Times, hours after the newspaper published a bombshell report in which two women claimed the former real estate magnate had touched them inappropriately.
Two high-ranking Trump campaign sources confirmed to CNNMoney that a lawsuit is in the works, but has not been filed.
“NYT editors, reporters, politically motivated accusers better lawyer up,” one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.
The Times story features two women — Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks — who say that Trump made inappropriate physical advances. CNN has not been able to independently confirm their accounts.
When Times reporter Megan Twohey interviewed Trump by phone on Tuesday night, “he threatened to sue us if we published these allegations,” Twohey told CNNMoney.
Then Twohey received a legal letter from a Trump attorney on Wednesday afternoon.
The story was posted online shortly before 7 p.m. Eastern.
“I think it is pretty evident this story falls clearly in the realm of public service journalism, and discussing issues that arose from the tape and his comments since it surfaced,” Times executive editor Dean Baquet told CNNMoney.
According to Twohey, Trump shouted at her during the phone interview.
She quoted Trump as saying that “none of this ever took place” and that “you are a disgusting human being.”
A lawyer for Trump similarly threatened to sue The Times when it published several pages of his 1995 tax return earlier this month.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond when asked if Trump actually intended to file a lawsuit against the Times.
But in a statement, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the “entire article is fiction.”
“For the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” Miller said in the statement. “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.”
“It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable business leaders on the planet with a strong record of empowering women in his companies would do the things alleged in this story, and for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all,” his statement continued.
Twohey said Crooks, one of the two women, reached out to the newspaper after it published a story in May titled “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.”
But Crooks was initially reluctant to speak publicly.
The other woman, Leeds, contacted the Times after Sunday’s debate, when Trump was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if he had ever done the things he described in that video.
“No, I have not,” Trump said.
Michael Barbaro, who co-bylined the story with Twohey, tweeted on Wednesday night, “This story might not have happened unless @andersoncooper had asked the pointed questions he did at debate.”
In the Times story, Leeds alleges that Trump, whom she says she had never met before, grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt while the two were on an airplane more than three decades ago. Crooks, who worked in Trump Tower at a company that Trump did not own, says Trump kissed her outside an elevator after she introduced herself.
The Times report comes in the wake of the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump boasted about being able to kiss women and grope them in ways that would amount to sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Trump once dismissed concerns over female teachers having sex with underage male students, saying in a clip that the boys were “going around bragging about it.”
In a June 2012 interview with a reporter from the TV show “Extra”, Trump is asked what he thinks about “all these teachers having sex with their students.” It’s unclear which specific case Trump is referencing in the clip.
“Well, I don’t think the male students have been hurt by it,” Trump replies. “In fact, they’re going around bragging about it as I understand it.”
“Wow,” the reporter says.
“I don’t see a lot of damage done,” Trump continues, before adding, “But it’s a very unusual situation. I would say her husband cannot be happy.”
The Trump campaign did not reply to a request for comment.
Several reports have surfaced in recent days of Trump making vulgar comments about women or alleging inappropriate touching by him. CBS unearthed 1992 footage from the show “Entertainment Tonight” wherein Trump suggests to a 10-year-old girl that he is “going to be dating her in 10 years.” Trump’s comments on women and sex in general has come under renewed scrutiny after last Friday, when The Washington Post published an audiotape of Trump bragging about how he can grab a women’s genitals because he’s a star.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said in the 2005 hot mic comments.
The New York Times on Wednesday published a report featuring two women who accused Trump of groping them. A Trump campaign spokesperson called the report “fiction.”
“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,” said Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller.
Miller added, “for this to only become public decades later in the final month of a campaign for president should say it all.”