Administration asked to clarify its official position on women whose allegations surfaced during campaign and which president has called ‘fake news’
The White House’s “official position” on the sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump that came out during the presidential campaign is that all of the women were lying, a spokesperson said.
At a briefing on Friday, which came amid a series of sexual harassment scandals across the country, a CBS News reporter noted that Trump has called the allegations from at least 16 women “fake news”, and asked: “Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded: “Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president has spoken on it.” She did not comment further and quickly moved on to another question.
Trump has repeatedly brushed aside the accusations of sexual harassment and assault that emerged during the presidential race last year after the leak of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about kissing women without their consent and saying stars like him could “grab them by the pussy”.
The allegations against the president have received renewed attention in recent weeks following an avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The scandal has rippled in a wide range of industries, inspiring survivors of sexual violence to share stories and call out predators under the hashtag #MeToo.
Sanders’ comment came days after Mark Halperin, a prominent political journalist, was accused of sexual harassment by five women who worked with him while he was an executive at ABC News. MSNBC suspended Halperin, who has apologized for inappropriate behavior.
Weinstein was recently fired from his company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A number of powerful men have also faced consequences this month in the wake of a stream of harassment and misconduct allegations, including the publisher of Artforum magazine and a prominent editor at the New Republic.
Trump’s accusers and others have pointed out that the president, however, has faced no consequences for the public allegations of misconduct that women raised last year. Some of the women who came forward with claims against Trump during the campaign spoke to the Guardian this month about watching Weinstein and others fall.
“Mr Trump was able to slough off the whole thing and that was very disappointing,” Jessica Leeds said in a recent interview. (She had accused Trump of assaulting her on a plane in the early 1980s). “I wish personally that the Weinstein story would have some effect on the Trump story, but to some degree Hollywood and the glamor machine is kind of a different category.”
Cathy Heller, who told the Guardian last year that Trump forcibly kissed her when they first met, said: “Many of the women who accused Weinstein are famous actresses and I think because of that, their stories had more heft. Ordinary women put up with this all the time.”
Asked about the recent revelation that the Trump campaign had been subpoenaed over a sexual assault allegation, the president said: “All I can say is it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful.”
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