Washington (AFP): Donald Trump on Friday rejected claims of women accusing him of sexual misconduct, and portrayed himself as the victim of a “smear campaign” orchestrated by the media and established politicians.
President Barack Obama warned meanwhile that America’s very democracy is at stake in the November 8 election because of the Republican presidential candidate.
As Trump spoke at a rally Summer Zervos — an ex-contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” — came forward to accuse him of kissing, groping and thrusting his genitals at her during a meeting at a California hotel in 2007.
The Trump campaign said in a statement that he “vaguely remembered” Zervos, but shot down her accusation.
It later released a statement from one John Barry, identified as Zervos’s first cousin, claiming that Zervos had praised Trump for years. Barry implied that Zervos was upset because Trump refused to visit her California restaurant during the primaries.
Also Friday a former aspiring model, Kristin Anderson, told the Washington Post that Trump had sidled up to her in a nightclub in the early 1990s, reached under her skirt and touched her vagina through her panties.
They were the latest in a stream of women accusing Trump of predatory sexual behavior, adding to the woes of his now free-falling presidential bid.
His Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Friday called the election “incredibly painful.”
“I take absolutely no satisfaction in what is happening on the other side with my opponent,” she told a crowd at a campaign field office in Seattle, Washington. “I am not at all happy about that.”
“It hurts our democracy.”
– ‘Lies, lies, lies’ –
The torrent of allegations against Trump was unleashed by the October 7 release of audio from 2005 in which Trump bragged that he could get away with grabbing women’s crotches because he’s famous.
“Lies, lies, lies,” Trump thundered at a rally Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina, referring to sexual misconduct allegations reported by the New York Times and other media.
“I have no idea who these women are. The stories are total fiction.”
He also had words for Jessica Leeds, who said he groped and kissed her as they sat next to each other on a plane in the 1980s.
Said Trump: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” eliciting laughter from the crowd.
At a later rally in Charlotte he claimed to be “the victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country.
“They are coming after me to try and destroy what is considered by even them the greatest movement in the history of our country.”
According to Trump, “the political establishment is trying to stop us because they know that we’re a threat to their totally corrupt controls.”
The latest Quinnipiac poll has the Republican candidate trailing his Democratic opponent among women voters by 20 points.
– ‘Corrupt media’ –
Trump also targeted Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire and the New York Times’ largest shareholder.
“The corrupt media is trying to do everything in their power to stop our movement,” Trump said.
“Carlos Slim as you know comes from Mexico. He’s given many millions of dollars to the Clintons and their initiative,” Trump said alluding to the Clinton Foundation.
Slim’s son-in-law and spokesman, Arturo Elias, said Slim has never met Trump and “is not interested in his personal life in the slightest.”
Obama, campaigning for Clinton in Cleveland, warned that much is at stake in the election.
He blasted Trump as a dictator-in-the-making, but also voiced concern about how Trump’s legion of supporters might react to defeat.
“Tolerance is on the ballot,” Obama told a group of largely young voters in the swing state of Ohio. “All the progress we made in the last eight years is on the ballot.”
“Democracy itself is on the ballot right now.”
– ‘C’mon man!’ –
As his poll numbers slip Trump has been claiming that the media and a “global elite” are working against him.
“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors,” Trump told supporters in Florida.
Obama gave that claim short shrift on Friday.
“C’mon man!” he said, ridiculing Trump’s repeated claim that the election is “rigged.”
“You don’t start complaining about the refs before the game’s even done,” Obama said. “You just play the game, right?”
Many elected Republican officials, worried about their re-election prospects, have distanced themselves from Trump.
Some, though, have since reversed their stance, citing fears that Clinton’s appointments as president would move the Supreme Court sharply to the left.