White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Monday that multiple “eyewitnesses” had denied allegations of sexual misconduct made against President Donald Trump. But it’s not so simple.
“The President has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses,” Sanders said Monday. “And several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President’s claim in this process.” She added: “In terms of the specific eyewitness accounts, there have been multiple reports and I’d be happy to provide them to you after the briefing has completed.”
But late Monday night — despite the numerous women who have accused Trump of everything from walking into girls’ dressing rooms to sexual assault — the White House provided one outlet with just three names of purported eyewitnesses. Two of the White House’s “eyewitnesses” weren’t even in the same pageant as Samantha Holvey, the woman whose claims the White House asserted they’d denied.
One other eyewitness listed in an email to ThinkProgress denied, in an interview last year arranged by Trump campaign, a separate claim against Trump.
White House Director of Strategic Response Steven Cheung on Tuesday sent an identical email to TPM after a request to see the document.
Samantha Holvey asserted in October 2016 that Trump had walked backstage prior to the Miss USA pageant in 2006, and separately that he inspected each contestant, “up and down, head to toe,” at a promotional event. Her claims echoed Trump’s own admission in 2005, on Howard Stern’s show, that he would “go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed,” at his own pageants, “inspecting it.”
Neither of two “eyewitnesses” the White House provided to TPM Monday night competed in the 2006 Miss USA pageant. Katie Blair competed in Miss Teen USA 2006, and Melissa Young competed in Miss USA 2005.
Young said in September 2016 that Trump was generous to her and her son when she was struggling with an illness years after she had competed in his pageant.
And Blair, who won her 2006 competition, said in October 2016 that she “never experienced” Trump “coming backstage and things like that, dressings rooms,” and that she didn’t “know anyone that has.”
At the time, that comment stood in contrast to multiple competitors in the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant, including one woman who went on record, who told BuzzFeed that Trump walked into their dressing room. Former competitor Mariah Billado recalled Trump telling them, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”
The White House also pointed to Anthony Gilberthorpe, a well-known source for British tabloid stories who claimed last year to have been on the plane, and to have witnessed, what Jessica Leeds later described as Trump’s aggressive groping of her.
Gilberthorpe told the New York Post, in an interview arranged by the Trump campaign, that no groping took place, and rather that it was Leeds who was “trying too hard” and “wanted to marry” Trump.
Leeds claimed Trump tried to reach up her skirt. Gilberthorpe claimed she was wearing a pantsuit. Leeds says she told everyone she could in subsequent years about her experience with Trump on the plane. Gilberthorpe told the Post that he recognized Leeds when she held up a picture of her younger self in a video report published by the New York Times.
“I have a good photographic memory,” he said. The Post added: “Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory.”
But, aside from his claims of recollection, Gilberthorpe’s earned more than a grain of salt: He is a frequent source for British tabloid stories, and, ThinkProgress noted, many of them have turned out to be made up or otherwise without corroborative evidence.
This post has been updated.