Embattled Donald Trump labels sex assault claims ‘outright lies’

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Donald Trump, under intense pressure from mounting claims that he sexually assaulted women, has denounced the allegations as “outright lies”.

Speaking in Florida in his first appearance since The New York Times and other media printed new claims from women who said they were the object of unwanted advances, he said “the political establishment” was trying to stop him.

“These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened,” Mr Trump said, speaking to supporters on Thursday afternoon in West Palm Beach. 

“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. And the Clintons know it and they know well.”

Mr Trump spoke amid a intensifying controversy over allegations that he had assaulted a number of women. The growing number individuals coming forward, followed the publication of a video recording from 2005 in which the Republican candidate boasted about assaulting women.

The 70-year-old has dismissed the recording as “locker room talk” and said he never assaulted any women. He said the series of women who had made accusations against him in different media reports were fabricating their stories and threatened to sue the New York Times.

Indeed, speaking at the rally, he said his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, along with the Times and other media were engaged in a concerted, “vicious” attempt to stop him.

Mr Trump’s campaign was already struggling to contain a crisis after the video surfaced last week showing him bragging in an Access Hollywood outtake about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.

One woman, Jessica Leeds, appeared on camera on the New York Times' website to recount how Mr Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on a flight from the Midwest to New York in or around 1980.

The second woman, Rachel Crooks, described how Mr Trump “kissed me directly on the mouth” in an unwanted advance in 2005 outside the elevator in Trump Tower in Manhattan, where she was a receptionist at a real estate firm.

Reuters said that on Wednesday night the New York tycoon’s campaign made public a letter to the newspaper from a lawyer representing Mr Trump, demanding it retract the story, calling it libelous, and threatening legal action if it did not comply.

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“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,” the campaign’s senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement.

The New York Times said on Thursday it stood by its story and rejected claims the article was libelous.

“Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself,” said David McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel for the newspaper.

Within hours of the Times report appearing, several other media outlets published similar reports. People magazine published a detailed first-person account from one of its reporters, Natasha Stoynoff. She said Mr Trump pinned her against a wall at his Florida estate in 2005 and kissed her as she struggled to get away.

“I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat,” Ms Stoynoff said.

Mr Trump mocked her claim in his speech on Thursday. 

“I ask her a simple question. Why wasn’t it part of the story that appeared 12 years ago? Why didn't they make it part of the story? If she had added that, it would have been the headline,” he said.

“Look at her and look at her words,” he said. “You tell me what you think. I don't think so.”