During Sunday night’s presidential debate, GOP nominee Donald Trump denied sexually assaulting women as he claimed to have done in a damning, recently surfaced recording from 2005. But at least one woman has come forward to allege that Trump assaulted her in exactly the manner he described on the tape.
Jill Harth, a pageant owner who dealt with Trump in the mid-1990s, sued the businessman in federal court in Manhattan in 1997, alleging “relentless” sexual harassment and assault by Trump, Newsweek reported. In her lawsuit, Harth described a 1992 business meeting she and Trump had at a New York restaurant in which he allegedly reached under the table, touched her thighs and grabbed “my intimate private parts.”
Harth recalled the alleged incident in a new interview with Newsweek, saying she was wearing a dress at the time and Trump “had his hands right there.”
In the leaked recording of a 2005 conversation between Trump and Access Hollywood‘s Billy Bush, Trump can be heard saying of Days of Our Lives actress Arianne Zucker, “I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — 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,” he added. “You can do anything. Grab them by the p—y.”
In 1992, Harth and her then-boyfriend and business partner George Houraney were in talks with Trump to get him involved in their beauty pageant. Harth said Trump hit on her aggressively during their first meeting and that the harassment allegedly continued throughout their business relationship.
Harth claimed that during one business meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, he forced her into a child’s room and onto the bed. “He grabbed me. He’s a big dude, 6 foot 3, and at the time I was waif-like. He was like, ‘I’m tired, let’s lay down.’ So in this bedroom — I hate talking about this — he went for it with the kissing, he had his hands all over me, really pressing down on me, definitely had a hard on,” Harth said. “I had worn pants strategically. I knew better than wearing a skirt around him anymore. It was a barrier of protection.”
Harth was able to break free and that was the last time she met with Trump until he hosted her pageant at Trump Castle casino and hotel in Atlantic City later that year. When Trump ultimately decided not to enter a business partnership with Houraney and Harth, Houraney sued Trump for breach of contract in 1996. Trump eventually settled with Houraney, and Harth agreed to withdraw her own sexual harassment case as part of the deal.
A Trump campaign spokesperson told Newsweek that, “Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth. These 24-year-old allegations lack any merit or veracity as evidence by her repeated requests for employment, attempts to seek out Mr. Trump, and her support of Mr. Trump’s candidacy.”
Harth isn’t the only woman who has accused Trump of making the kind of unwelcome advances he described in his 2005 conversation with Bush. Former Miss USA pageant contestant Temple Taggart told The New York Times in May that Trump introduced himself by kissing her “directly on the lips.”
“I thought: ‘Oh, my gosh. Gross,’ ” recalls Taggart, who was 21 at the time of the meeting. “He was married to Marla Maples at the time. I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’ “
Trump disputed Taggart’s story in May, telling the Times he’s “reluctant to kiss strangers on the lips.”
After the 2005 recording emerged on Friday, Taggart told the Times, “It was like, ‘Thank you.’ Now no one can say I made this up.”
CNN’s Erin Burnett reported Friday after the tape’s release that a woman she’s friends with told her that Trump kissed her without her consent in 2010. Burnett’s friend said Trump invited her into his office alone, told her she was “special” and gave her his cell phone number. “I ran the hell out of there,” she said.
The friend also said she recognized a detail from the recording — Tic Tacs.
“That’s exactly what Trump did to me,” she said. “Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested that I take them also. He then leaned in … catching me off guard and kissed me almost on the lips. I was really freaked out.” Trump was married to his third wife, Melania Trump, at the time of the alleged incident.
Part of Trump’s defense strategy since the 2005 video leaked on Friday has been to remind voters of an allegation by Arkansas native Juanita Broaddrick—first leveled in 1999, denied by Bill Clinton and never proven or prosecuted—that former President Bill Clinton raped her in 1978. Trump recited that allegation in Sunday’s debate, saying, “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse.”
But then there’s Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, who accused him of rape in a sworn deposition in which she described under oath during their divorce proceedings a 1989 incident of violent, forcible sex. Four years later, when author Harry Hurt III was about to publish a graphic account of Ivana’s divorce papers, Donald Trump’s lawyers sent Hurt a statement from Ivana affirming the incident and saying she “felt violated” at the time. The ex-Mrs. Trump added in the written statement then, “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
But Hurt, who wrote the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, maintains that what happened that night was rape. He tells PEOPLE that Trump’s debate denial that he has sexually assaulted women was a lie.
“He lied. He lied. Donald Trump lied. He has molested other women, specifically his wife Ivana who testified to it under oath,” Hurt said. “And even though he’s tried to backtrack from saying he raped her, she says in her own non-denial denial spin control statement, ‘I felt violated.’ This is her own words, not mine.”
- Reporting by DIANE HERBST