On Friday, the Washington Post published a bombshell video of a 2005 conversation in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump discussed grabbing women “by the pussy.” The key portion:
I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
In a statement to the Post, Trump defended his comments as “locker room banter” and said he apologized “if anyone was offended.” But talking about how you “can do anything” to beautiful women “when you’re a star,” including “grab them by the pussy” is not locker room banter, it’s describing committing sexual assault. And Trump was actually accused in a lawsuit of doing exactly that.
In 1997, a makeup artist and former business associate named Jill Harth alleged that Trump had groped her on multiple occasions. In her suit, which you can read here, Harth described one of these advances as “attempted rape.” As the Guardian reported in July, that suit was dropped after Trump settled a separate business lawsuit with Harth’s partner George Houraney.
Harth, Houraney, and Trump were working on a pin-up competition together when Trump allegedly began making sexual advances. The project began in December 1992. According to Harth, in January 1993, Trump's behavior escalated. In her 1997 deposition, written about recently in the New York Times, Harth testified that at a business dinner Trump “name-dropped throughout that [meal], when he wasn’t groping me under the table.” Here’s how the lawsuit described the incident:
Then, the lawsuit alleges, Trump tried to get Harth into his daughter’s bedroom alone. When he was with Harth in Ivanka’s bedroom, Trump allegedly groped her again.
Two weeks later, the alleged assault escalated to “attempted rape”:
The Guardian’s Lucia Graves reported that Harth described this episode in her deposition this way: "It's a good thing I had pants on, that's all I can say." Trump allegedly persisted and Harth became physically ill:
Trump has denied the allegations, and prior to the lawsuit he attempted to depict Harth as wanting to sleep with him. In 1996, he was quoted in the National Enquirer as saying that Harth “was trying to get into my pants.”
A similar quote appeared in a pornographic magazine, and Trump also allegedly bragged about having sex with Harth outside of the courthouse in December and March 1997:
In an interview with the Guardian in July, Harth described the incident in Ivanka’s room in further detail:
He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again and I had to physically say: “What are you doing? Stop it.” It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George, he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?
Harth had maintained silence on the subject for many years, though she stood by her story when the site Law Newz first published the lawsuit in February and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen denied her version of events. Here’s Cohen: “There is no truth to the story at all. The plaintiff in the matter, Jill Harth, would acknowledge the same.”
“I never disavowed the complaint to anyone,” Harth responded at the time. “I never sought attention about the old complaint that I withdrew. The statement of the Trump attorney Michael Cohen is his alone and is not to be attributed to me. Swearing falsely in a federal complaint is a crime.”
When the New York Times published a larger story on Trump’s history with several women in May, the Trump campaign pushed back against Harth’s 19-year-old account vigorously. Trump called the claims “meritless,” and Ivanka gave an interview in which she said her father is “not a groper.”
Harth told the Guardian that, after the Times story, the Trump campaign attempted to get her to take back her account:
His office—and I have it on my voicemails that he called, that they called—they asked me to recant everything when the New York Times article came out. They were trying to get me to say it never happened and I made it up. And I said I’m not doing that.
Trump’s campaign denied they asked her to do this. Today, they can’t deny that he talked about grabbing women’s crotches—doing exactly what Harth claims he did to her—because the tape is out.