New York Times dares Donald Trump to sue over sexual assault claims

'We welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight,' wrote the Times's lawyer, after the Republican nominee accused the paper of libel

Donald Trump calls sexual abuse allegations 'pure fiction'

The New York Times has refused to retract an article in which two women accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, after the Republican presidential nominee threatened to sue the newspaper. In a letter made public on Thursday, a lawyer for the Times all but dared the property developer to make good on his threat.

“We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” wrote David McCraw, the paper’s assistant general counsel. “If Mr Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would criticise him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

The article, published late on Wednesday, featured interviews with 74-year-old Jessica Leeds, who said Mr Trump had groped her on a flight more than 30 years ago, and with Rachel Crooks, whom Mr Trump allegedly kissed “on the mouth” against her will as she introduced herself to him in 2005, when she was 22.

Mr Trump’s lawyers accused the paper of libel and demanded a retraction, calling the piece “reckless” and “defamatory” in a letter sent to the Times shortly after the piece appeared online. “It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr Trump’s [presidential] candidacy,” wrote the Republican nominee’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

Speaking on the stump in Florida on Thursday, Mr Trump insisted that the claims of sexual assault published in the Times, as well as those from several other women published elsewhere, were evidence of attempts by “the political establishment” to derail his campaign. “These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened,” Mr Trump said, adding that he was preparing a lawsuit against the newspaper.

In the paper’s response, however, Mr McCraw noted that the assaults described by the women constituted the same behaviour that Mr Trump himself had boasted about in a 2005 tape published by the Washington Post last week. “When you’re a star,” the then-Apprentice host said, “you can do anything… Grab ‘em by the p****.”

“The essence of a libel claim,” Mr McCraw wrote, “is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr Trump has bragged about this non-consensual sexual touching of women… Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. 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."

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