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Former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff is adding her name to the list of women who have allegedly been sexually assaulted by the presidential candidate. Back in 2005, Stoynoff says she was sent to his Mar-a-Lago property to write about Trump and his then-pregnant wife, Melania, on the eve of their first wedding anniversary. She says that at one point, Trump offered to give her a tour of the resort, during which he allegedly tried to forcibly kiss her.
Earlier Wednesday, The New York Times published two accounts of women who claim they were touched by Trump without their consent. In the article, one woman details how more than three decades ago while traveling in first class, Trump lifted the armrest between them and began to touch her. Another women tells a story of Trump kissing her “directly on the mouth” upon meeting him.
Stoynoff had been assigned to the “Trump beat” for People sometime in the early 2000s. She had previously attended the couple’s lavish wedding and also tracked the success of his hit The Apprentice. Stoynoff, in her People article published late Wednesday, admitted that she enjoyed a cordial relationship with Trump and his wife and described Melania as “kind and sweet” while referring to Trump as “bombastic and entertaining.”
But things took an unexpected turn in December 2005 (the same year of Trump’s hot mic conversation with then-Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush that recently leaked via the Washington Post).
Stoynoff writes that as she spoke with the couple, Melania excused herself and headed out for a wardrobe change in order to accommodate more photos. She recalls that Trump offered to show her around the mansion while they waited for his wife to return. He insisted on taking her to the one room that he labeled “tremendous.”
Stoynoff agreed to be led to the room, and once inside, she says that Trump closed the door and suddenly he “was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.”
Stoynoff tried to fight back, she says, but was unable to get away from his advances. “Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger — a looming figure — and he was fast, taking me by surprise, and throwing me off balance.”
The saving grace, according to the reporter, was the surprise entrance of Trump’s seasoned butler who interrupted the ongoing assault to announce that Melania was on her way back to rejoin her husband so they could resume the interview. Stoynoff details her “shock” as she sat next to the man who only minutes before had tried to have his way with her without her consent.
Things got worse after the butler left and the two were once again alone, waiting for Melania to return. According to Stoynoff, Trump gave her smile, moved closer to her and said, “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?”
He also asked the reporter if she had ever been to “Peter Luger’s for steak” and promised to take her. At that point, Melania returned and Stoynoff noted that Trump immediately dropped his act and once again became the “doting” husband.
Stoynoff ended up requesting to be removed from the Trump beat and tried to put the unsettling experience behind her, but like most victims of sexual misconduct she thought she may have sent out the wrong signals and encouraged Trump’s bad behavior.
Now, with Trump’s presidential run and the unearthing of the Access Hollywood tape, Stoynoff stresses that this act was not consensual.
“During the presidential debate, Donald Trump lied about kissing women without their consent. I should know. His actions made me feel bad for a very long time. They still do. Talk is talk. But it wasn’t just talk in my case, it was very much action. And, just for the record, Mr. Trump, I did not consent.”
On Thursday, Trump addressed the new allegations during a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla. He described Wednesday’s accusations as “totally and absolutely false,” saying he has “substantial evidence” to prove it that he plans to make public “at an appropriate time, very soon.”
Also on Thursday, People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle addressed why the magazine chose to publish Stoynoff’s story now amid attacks about its timing.
“We are grateful to Natasha Stoynoff for telling her story. Ms. Stoynoff is a remarkable, ethical, honest and patriotic woman, and she has shared her story of being physically attacked by Donald Trump in 2005 because she felt it was her duty to make the public aware,” said Cagle in a statement.
Continuing “to assign any other motive [to the story’s release] is a disgusting, pathetic attempt to victimize her again,” Cagle added. “We stand steadfastly by her, and are proud to publish her clear, credible account of what happened. It is heartbreaking that her fear of retaliation by Trump kept her from reporting the incident when it happened. She has carried this secret for more than a decade, and we hope that by coming forward now she is relieved of that burden.”
Later on Thursday, Melania’s lawyer Charles Harder, who recently made headlines for representing Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker, sent People a demand for a retraction that she also tweeted on Thursday, which reads: “Mrs. Trump did not encounter Ms. Stoynoff on the street, nor have any conversation with her. The two are not friends and were never friends or even friendly.”
Oct. 13, 12:10 p.m.: Updated with People statement.
Oct. 13, 4:30 p.m.: Updated with Melania’s demand for retraction.
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