Three of the women who accused President Trump of sexual misconduct last year appeared Monday morning on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today for what they described as “round two” in an effort to hold him accountable.
Fighting back tears at the outset, Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA North Carolina who claimed Trump broke gender restrictions on his competition’s dressing room to enter and ogle the women, lamented how American voters seemed not to care about their stories last year.
“We’re private citizens and 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, ‘We don’t care,’ It hurt,” Holvey described to host Megyn Kelly. “And so, you know, now, it’s just like, all right, let’s try round two. The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”
That new “environment” Holvey described is one that, fueled by the #MeToo movement this year, has held powerful men accountable for sexual misconduct—from media moguls Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, to actors like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., to a bipartisan swath of elected officials like Al Franken and Trent Franks.
In the hopes that now Americans might reconsider their nonchalance toward the president’s 16-plus accusers, each woman told their stories one by one in unrelenting detail.
After listening to a soundbite of Trump bragging to Howard Stern on his radio show about how he “gets away with” going backstage at the Miss USA pageant to check out the women, Holvey told Kelly: “[It’s] just so gross... [he thinks] he owns the pageant, so he owned us.”
Next up was Rachel Crooks, who claimed last year that, when she worked in Trump Tower in 2005, Trump made an unwanted sexual advance on her during a formal handshake in a common area.
“I would see him almost daily waiting for his elevator,” she recounted to Kelly. “One day, I decided to introduce myself because I did see him regularly. And he shook my hand, and he gave me the normal double-cheek kiss, but then, he held onto my hand. And he kept kissing me [on the lips]. And asking me a question, ‘Where are you from?’ And kissing me again. And again.”
She added: “I was shocked, I mean, devastated. It happened so fast. I wish I would have been courageous enough to be, like, ‘What’s going on?’ and ‘You need to stop this.’” Crooks recalled that it was early in the morning and no one else was in her office, and so she hid at her desk and called her sister to describe what had taken place. “I felt horrible.”
Kelly noted for the viewers that Crooks’ story lines up with what former Fox News host Juliet Huddy revealed late last week: that Trump went in for an unwanted kiss on the lips during an otherwise routine farewell greeting.
Throughout the discussion with Trump’s accusers, Kelly inserted that the president has vociferously denied all claims, but then continually reminded her audience of what he said in the infamous Access Hollywood tapes: “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Such groping is what Jessica Leeds, now 74, accused Trump of doing to her nearly four decades ago on an airplane.
She recounted to Kelly how while working as a traveling saleswoman in the early 1980s, a stewardess aboard one flight asked if she’d like to move up to first class. Happily obliging, Leeds then found herself seated next to Trump, whom she had not heard of at the time.
“They served a meal,” she remembered, “and after the meal was cleared, all of a sudden, he was all over me, kissing and groping and groping and kissing and, believe me, my memory of it was, that nothing was said, he didn’t say, ‘Oh, by the way,’ or, I didn’t go ‘Eek!’ or ‘Help!’ or whatever. It was this silent groping going on.”
Leeds continued: “When his hands started going up my skirt... I managed to wiggle out and stand up, grab my purse, and I went to the back of the airplane. I stayed at the back of the airplane until we landed and everybody was off because I did not want to take the chance of running into him at all.”
She was so horrified by the incident that she did not tell the airline or her boss, Leeds said, but then three years later, upon attending a gala in New York City, she ran into him again. “‘I remember you,’” she recalled Trump saying. “‘You were that... woman from the airplane.’ He called me the worst name ever.”
“You don’t want to say it out loud. Does it begin with a ‘c’?” Kelly pressed. “Yes,” Leeds replied.
She said that only when he began to run for president in 2015 did she start telling her family, friends, and neighbors. Not because of a concern about politics, Leeds, a self-identified Democrat asserted, but because “I really wanted people to know who he is and what he is. And I think his core supporters do know... but he’s their dog, so they’re going to stick with their dog.”
“Because he’s got the right team jersey on,” Kelly noted.
“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign,” the White House said in a Monday statement to Kelly’s show. “And the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory. The timing and absurdity of these claims speaks volumes and the publicity tour only confirms the motives behind them.”
But the accusers disputed the notion that they are political operatives.
“The things that happened to us spanned decades, states, all over,” Crooks shot back at the White House. “What could we possibly have colluded to come up with these tales that all sound so eerily similar?”
Leeds added that her only goal was to inform the public on “what a pervert he is.”
Kelly presented Leeds again with the Trump campaign’s “proof” that she made a false accusation: then-17-year-old Anthony Gilberthorpe, now infamous for his unreliable public claims, claimed to have witnessed the airplane encounter and described Leeds as wearing a white suit.
“I never owned a white suit,” she told Kelly.
“And I’ve talked to businesswomen, I’ve talked to friends, I talked to the ladies at the Y, everybody. And I discovered that everybody has a story. And not only that... it doesn’t matter when it happened—whether they were 8 years old, or whether they were 35 or whether they were older: they remember when it happened, they remember who it happened with, they remember where it was, and they remember what they had on.”
In the end, all three women expressed pessimism about whether, if the election were held today, Trump would lose as a result of the #MeToo movement’s power.
“Politicians of a certain background seem to not be held accountable,” Crooks lamented. She later noted how Congress opened an ethics probe into Sen. Franken, accused of serial groping, but yet “Why is the president immune to that?”
“To be cynical,” Leeds added, “the United States has gone through a lot of... scandals that included presidents. I would like to remark that John F. Kennedy is still thought to be the star” despite the many accusations of sexual misconduct and philandering.