The New York Times is standing by its story about two women who say Donald Trump kissed or groped them without consent, and rejected the GOP nominee’s accusation that it had committed libel.
David McCraw, the vice president and assistant general counsel for the Times, wrote a letter Thursday to Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz saying the paper would not remove the article in question from its website or issue an immediate retraction and apology.
Among other things, McGraw argued that Trump’s own past comments boasting of grabbing women “by the p****” without their consent made it difficult for the mogul to contend that the latest Times story was libelous.
“The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms,” McCraw wrote. “He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a ‘piece of ass.’ 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.”
In the Times article, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks talk about how Trump allegedly forced himself upon them years ago. Leeds said he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt aboard a flight to New York in the early 1980s. Crooks said he kissed her on the mouth without her consent in 2005.
McCraw defended the journalists who broke the story and said they worked carefully to confirm the accounts of the alleged assaults.
“The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate,” he said. “Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports.”
He also said that there is a larger and more important point than whether or not the Times piece amounted to libel: It has to do with the institution of journalism and its role in the nation’s democratic system.
“It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” McCraw continued. “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 dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
On Thursday afternoon, Trump called the allegations against him “totally and absolutely false” during a speech in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“These events never, ever happened and the people that said them meekly, fully understand. You take a look at these people, you study these people and you’ll understand also,” Trump told a crowd of supporters. “The claims are preposterous, ludicrous and defy truth, common sense and logic.”
Trump claimed that it is not a coincidence that these accusations surfaced “altogether at the exact same time” that WikiLeaks released more documents that expose “the massive international corruption of the Clinton machine.”