WASHINGTON: Donald Trump savaged US media Thursday for reporting “outright lies” that he groped and forcibly kissed women, as First Lady Michelle Obama blasted the Republican nominee in a powerful tirade.
Just 26 days before the American electorate chooses a successor to her husband on November 8, a visibly angry first lady delivered a fiery takedown of the real estate mogul and his “disgraceful” behavior.
“Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, enough is enough,” Obama told a rally for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. “This has got to stop right now.”
Her husband turned up the heat later on Thursday, jetting to the key swing state of Ohio to lash Republicans tight to their sinking ship.
The New York mogul came from a “swamp of crazy” that Republicans had cultivated over decades, Barack Obama told the state where Trump has long held a lead but where a poll on Thursday edged Clinton ahead.
But the 70-year-old Trump was defiant, castigating his accusers as “horrible liars” and accusing Clinton of conspiring in a coordinated media attempt to sabotage his campaign.
At least six women have accused Trump of making unwanted physical advances in accounts reported by The New York Times, NBC, People Magazine and others, most of them after Trump asserted in Sunday’s debate with Clinton that he had never sexually assaulted a woman.
With his campaign in free-fall and sliding in the polls, Trump pounded the battleground states of Florida and Ohio, denying the alleged incidents occurred and turning the guns on his opponent.
“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false,” Trump told a rally in West Palm Beach.
“They’re outright lies.” The attacks, he added, “are orchestrated by the Clintons and their media allies.”
Trump said his lawyers were preparing a lawsuit against The New York Times — which published the accounts of two women who accused him of groping and kissing them — unless the paper retracts the article.
– ‘Disgraceful, intolerable’ –
The Times refused to back down.
“We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern,” the paper’s assistant general counsel David McCraw wrote in a letter to Trump’s lawyers.
The women’s accusations surfaced after a video emerged of Trump boasting in 2005 of groping women with impunity because he was famous, sending the White House race into unprecedented levels of vulgarity.
He apologized and, trying to stem his bleeding in the national polls to the 68-year-old Clinton, downplayed the comments as “locker room talk” — a remark decried by the first lady.
“This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior. And actually bragging about kissing and groping women,” said Obama, 52.
“No woman deserves to be treated this way. No one deserves this kind of abuse,” she said. “This is not normal. It is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable.”
The allegations against Trump suggest a decades-long pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Jessica Leeds, a 74-year-old former businesswoman, told the Times that Trump groped her on a flight in the early 1980s.
“He was like an octopus,” Leeds said. “It was an assault.”
Rachel Crooks said she was a 22-year-old receptionist in Trump Tower in 2005 when she encountered the billionaire outside an elevator.
He “kissed me directly on the mouth,” she told the Times.
A photographer’s assistant alleged that Trump grabbed her rear at his Florida estate in 2003, where a former writer for People accused Trump of forcibly kissing her during an interview to mark his wedding anniversary with then pregnant third wife Melania in 2005.
Two beauty pageant contestants also accused Trump of either groping or forcibly kissing them.
Trump rejected the claims again at a speech to young voters in Columbus, Ohio.
“I never met these people. I don’t even know who they are. They’re made-up stories filed right before the election,” he said.
In an evening rally in Cincinnati, Trump sought to get back on message, blasting Clinton as “corrupt” and repeating his pledge to hire a special prosecutor to investigate her email scandal
“She should be locked up,” he told a rally of thousands. “She doesn’t have the strength, she doesn’t have the aptitude, she doesn’t have what it takes.”
In a sinister note Thursday, he charged that Clinton met “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers.”
The former secretary of state, visiting a campaign field office in San Francisco, briefly addressed the ugliness of the presidential race.
“We cannot let this pessimism, this dark and divisive and dangerous vision of America, take hold in anybody’s heart,” she said. “There’s hardly any part of America that he’s not targeted.”