Less than two hours before his appearance at the second presidential debate, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump held a brief public event with three women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety and one woman whose accused rapist was represented by then attorney Hillary Clinton during his criminal trial in 1975.
With television cameras, reporters, and a social-media staffer from his campaign broadcasting the meeting live on Facebook, Trump met with four women, Paula Jones, Kathy Shelton, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey.
Trump repeatedly ignored shouted questions from the reporters covering the event about his comments from a 2005 video in which he boasted his celebrity status would allow him to sexually assault women. “Mr. Trump, does your star power allow you to touch women without their consent?” one reporter asked before Trump began the four-minute press event.
“Join me in St. Louis, Missouri, as I conclude my debate prep,” Trump’s campaign captioned the video posted on Facebook Live, suggesting Trump is planning to bring up their allegations on the debate state later Sunday. The meeting took place at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, where Donald Trump is in debate prep in a sixth floor meeting room. The women, who all said they support Trump, made brief statements to the press.
Broaddrick said, “Actions speak louder that words,” adding that “Trump may have said some bad words,” but that Bill Clinton’s alleged actions were worse.
“I’m here to support Trump,” Shelton said. “You went through a lot,” Trump told her.
After their remarks, reporters continued to shout questions to Trump, asking whether his recently released comments justified touching women without their consent. Trump was silent. “Why don’t y’all ask Bill Clinton that,” Jones responded. “Why don’t y’all go ask Bill Clinton that? Go ahead. Ask Hillary, as well.” Trump staff could be heard laughing at her response in the background of the campaign’s video.
Trump has not held a press conference in more than a month nor addressed his remarks in the video outside of a 90-minute prepared statement early Saturday.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Trump adviser and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said he didn’t think Trump would bring up the accusations against the former at the debate, but that he would mention allegations against Hillary Clinton. “I believe he will not bring up Bill Clinton’s personal life,” he said. “I do believe there’s a possibility he’ll talk about Hillary Clinton’s situation, if it gets to that … What I’m talking about, the things that she has said and that have been reported in various books and magazines and other places about the women that Bill Clinton raped, sexually abused and attacked. Not Bill Clinton’s role, but her role as the attacker.”
Jones testified in court in 1997 that Bill Clinton had propositioned her in a hotel room in 1991, trying to kiss her, exposing himself and asking her to perform oral sex. Clinton’s attorneys have called the charges baseless. Clinton settled a civil lawsuit with her in 1998, paying $850,000 without making any admission of wrongdoing.
Broaddrick has said that Clinton raped her in 1978. But in a 1997 affidavit for the Paula Jones lawsuit, Broaddrick (known as Jane Doe #5) denied under oath that she had ever had a sexual relationship with Clinton, and said there is “no truth to the rumors.” In 1998, in a sworn interview with investigators from the office of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Broaddrick changed her story, recanting her denial and testifying that nobody from the White House had pressured her to stay silent. Clinton has denied the charge.
Willey was a volunteer at the White House in 1993, and she said in a 1998 60 Minutes interview that Clinton once gave her a hug, put his hands in her hair and fondled her in his personal study in the White House. She gave testimony in the Jones lawsuit that did not include the claim that he fondled her. Clinton denied the encounter under oath before a grand jury. Willey later admitted to giving false information to the FBI about a former boyfriend during the ensuing investigations. “Willey and President Clinton are the only two direct witnesses to their meeting and their accounts differ substantially on the crucial facts of what occurred,” concluded the report of independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Shelton was a child rape victim, whose rapist was represented by Hillary Clinton when she worked as a lawyer in 1975.
“We’re not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for the Clinton campaign after the Trump event. “Hillary Clinton understands the opportunity in this town hall is to talk to voters on stage and in the audience about the issues that matter to them, and this stunt doesn’t change that. If Donald Trump doesn’t see that, that’s his loss. As always, she’s prepared to handle whatever Donald Trump throws her way.”
— With reporting by Philip Elliott / St. Louis and Charlotte Alter / New York