Washington (AFP): Donald Trump savaged US media Thursday for reporting “outright lies” that he groped and forcibly kissed women, as First Lady Michelle Obama blasted the Republican nominee in a powerful tirade.
Just 26 days before the American electorate chooses a successor to her husband on November 8, a visibly angry first lady delivered a fiery takedown of the real estate mogul and his “disgraceful” behavior.
“Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, enough is enough,” Obama told a rally for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. “This has got to stop right now.”
Her husband turned up the heat later on Thursday, jetting to the key swing state of Ohio to lash Republicans tight to their sinking ship.
The New York mogul came from a “swamp of crazy” that Republicans had cultivated over decades, Barack Obama told the state where Trump has long held a lead but where a poll on Thursday edged Clinton ahead.
But the 70-year-old Trump was defiant, castigating his accusers as “horrible liars” and accusing Clinton of conspiring in a coordinated media attempt to sabotage his campaign.
At least six women have accused Trump of making unwanted physical advances in accounts reported by The New York Times, NBC, People Magazine and others, most of them after Trump asserted in Sunday’s debate with Clinton that he had never sexually assaulted a woman.
With his campaign in free-fall and sliding in the polls, Trump pounded the battleground states of Florida and Ohio.
“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false,” Trump told a rally in West Palm Beach. “The attacks are orchestrated by the Clintons and their media allies.”
Trump said his lawyers were preparing a lawsuit against The New York Times — which published the accounts of two women who accused him of groping and kissing them — unless the paper retracts the article.
– ‘Disgraceful, intolerable’ –
The Times refused to back down.
“We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” the paper’s assistant general counsel David McCraw wrote in a letter to Trump’s lawyers.
The women’s accusations surfaced after a video emerged of Trump boasting in 2005 of groping women with impunity because he was famous, sending the White House race into unprecedented levels of vulgarity.
He apologized and, trying to stem his bleeding in the national polls to the 68-year-old Clinton, downplayed the comments as “locker room talk” — a remark the first lady decried.
“This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior. And actually bragging about kissing and groping women,” Michelle Obama said during her speech.
“No woman deserves to be treated this way. No one deserves this kind of abuse,” she added. “This is not normal. It is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable.”
The allegations against Trump suggest a decades-long pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Jessica Leeds, a 74-year-old former businesswoman, told the Times that Trump groped her on a flight in the early 1980s, grabbing her breasts and reaching up her skirt.
“He was like an octopus,” she said. “It was an assault.”
– ‘Tongue down my throat’ –
Another accuser, a former writer for People Magazine accused Trump of forcibly kissing her during an interview to mark his wedding anniversary with then-pregnant third wife Melania in 2005.
“I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” Natasha Stoynoff wrote.
Melania Trump threatened the magazine and writer with legal action late Thursday over “false and completely fictionalized” statements. However, she took issue not with the accusations against her husband, but Stoynoff’s account of bumping into her on a Manhattan street later.
During an evening rally in Cincinnati, Trump sought to get back on message, blasting Clinton as “corrupt” and repeating his pledge to hire a special prosecutor to investigate her email scandal.
In a sinister note Thursday that critics likened to historical slurs against Jews, he charged that Clinton met “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers”.
The former secretary of state, visiting a campaign field office in San Francisco, briefly addressed the ugliness of the presidential race.
“We cannot let this pessimism, this dark and divisive and dangerous vision of America, take hold in anybody’s heart,” she said. “There’s hardly any part of America that he’s not targeted.”