UPDATED 12:30 p.m., Dec. 11, 2017
The women who say Donald Trump sexually harassed and assaulted them are joining together in a media blitz to remind America just what its sitting president is accused of and make him accountable.
Three of the 19 women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct appeared on NBC’s “Today” show Monday and appeared in a news conference later in the morning to call for a congressional investigation.
“For us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is and especially how he views women and for them to say, ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” said Samantha Holvey, who says Trump walked into her dressing room when she was in the 2006 Miss America pageant, owned by the Trump Organization at the time. “Now it’s just like, ‘Let’s try round two; the environment’s different.’”
The women who spoke on “Today” were among the many who’d shared their experiences of Trump’s alleged harassment last October in the days after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, where Trump bragged that being a star let him sexually assault women. But it was election season, the news cycle moved on, and Trump still won the presidency.
Now, with the #MeToo movement forcing America to reckon with its pervasive sexual harassment problem, these women are hoping their stories will get better traction.
At the press conference calling for a nonpartisan congressional investigation into the Trump allegations, the women noted that senators of both parties were quick to agree to one for Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat who resigned last week after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
“We’re at the position now, where in some areas of our society, people are being held accountable for unwanted behavior,” Leeds said, “but we are not holding our president accountable for what he is and who he is.”
The way they see it, Congress and the court of public opinion are their last, best options, and they didn’t have faith in lawsuits to bring Trump to justice.
“We have to deal with the public,” said Jessica Leeds, “and we have to deal with attitudes and changing a cultural phenomenon here, so I don’t think the courts are a place to go.”
Leeds says Trump groped and kissed her on an airplane in the ’70s. “All of a sudden, he’s all over me. It was just this silent groping going on, and I do remember at one point out of my side eye thinking, ‘That guy sitting across the aisle, why doesn’t he come to my defense? Where is the stewardess, somebody?’”
Another of the accusers, Rachel Crook, said she was working in Trump Tower in New York, just steps away from the elevator to Trump’s residence in the building, when he introduced himself and kissed her on the lips without consent.
“He held onto my hand and he kept kissing me,” Crooks said.“It happened so fast, I guess. I wish I could’ve been courageous enough to go, ‘What’s going on?’ and, ‘You need to stop this.’”
Days later, Crooks says, Trump came down and asked for her phone number, saying he could connect her with his modeling agency.
“I was a little threatened, like I didn’t have a choice in agreeing to do that,” she recalled.
So far, only one woman who’s accused Trump of harassment, Summer Zervos, has taken him to court, and proceedings are ongoing in a case that may end up in New York’s Supreme Court.
Far from dodging the subject of sexual assault, the president has called all against him “fake news” and has gone all-in on supporting Roy Moore, the GOP candidate in the special election for a Senate seat in Alabama, even though the former judge is accused of sexually pursuing or molesting nine teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., said Sunday these women “have every right to speak up,” but other than that, they won’t be getting any defense from the White House, which sent a statement to “Today” maintaining its vigorous denial of all allegations.
“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgement by delivering a decisive victory,” the statement read.
Neither Republican-controlled house of Congress is likely to launch an investigation into the president, but in the past few days three Democratic senators, including Cory Booker of New Jersey, have called for him to resign.