NEW YORK ― The New York Times rejected Donald Trump’s request that the paper retract and apologize for its explosive Wednesday report alleging the Republican nominee groped two women, part of a growing list of accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct.
“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,” Times assistant general counsel David McCraw wrote in a letter to Trump’s attorney.
“Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts,” McCraw continued. “They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices.”
In the article, two women ― Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks ― described Trump inappropriately touching them. Leeds said Trump “grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt” while on a flight more than three decades ago. Crooks said Trump started kissing her without her consent while in an elevator in 2005.
The women spoke out after Trump denied at Sunday night’s debate having ever committed sexual assault, behavior he’d boasted about on a 2005 recording published two days earlier. Leeds and Crooks are among several women recently alleging Trump engaged in vulgar and inappropriate conduct.
Trump denied the women’s claims in the Times story, called one of the article’s authors a “disgusting human being” and threatened to sue the paper if the piece was published. The Republican nominee has threatened to sue news outlets about a dozen times this election cycle.
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. David McCraw, New York Times assistant general counsel
A few hours after the article was published Wednesday night, Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz wrote a letter to Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet seeking a retraction. Failing to do so, he wrote, would leave his client “with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies.”
In Thursday’s response, McCraw suggested Trump couldn’t claim libel against the Times because he, not the paper, sullied his own 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,” he 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.”
McCraw wrote that if Trump disagrees with women being allowed to speak out and believes “the law of this country forces us and those who would dare criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
On Thursday afternoon, Trump spent much of a Florida rally railing against the Times and the media more broadly for what he perceives as unfair coverage. He again said he was preparing to sue the paper.
Read the full letter below:
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.