By Steve Holland and Dan Whitcomb
GREENSBORO, N.C./LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Friday accusations of sexual misconduct against him were part of a plot to discredit him after two more women came forward with allegations that he had groped them.
The accusations – including one from a contestant on his reality show, “The Apprentice” – coincided with the release on Friday of a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll taken on Oct. 7-13 showing him trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 7 percentage points among likely voters in the Nov. 8 election.
Summer Zervos, who competed on the television show’s fifth season in 2006, gave a news conference with celebrity attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles, saying Trump kissed her, touched her breast and tried to get her to lie down on a bed with him during a 2007 meeting about a possible job.
“He put me in an embrace and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest to put space between us and I said come on man, get real. He repeated my words back to me, ‘Get real,’ as he began thrusting his genitals,” Zervos said.
Zervos said she thought Trump was going to take her to dinner to discuss a job, but the meeting took place in his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he later ordered a club sandwich for them to share.
“I wondered if the sexual behaviour was some kind of test and whether or not I had passed” by rejecting it, she said, but Trump later offered her a job at a golf course for half the salary she had requested.
Separately, the Washington Post published an interview with a woman who said Trump put his hand up her skirt in a crowded New York nightclub in the early 1990s in an unwanted advance.
“He did touch my vagina through my underwear, absolutely,” Kristin Anderson said in a video interview on the newspaper’s website. “It wasn’t a sexual come-on. I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it,” she told the paper. Anderson could not be reached for comment.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the new allegations. But at a campaign rally on Friday, Trump angrily denounced the allegations several women have made about him in recent days, calling the women “sick” and saying the accusations were fabricated.
“I don’t know who these people are. I look on television, I think it’s a disgusting thing and it’s being pushed, they have no witnesses, there’s nobody around,” Trump said at the rally in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“Some are doing it for probably a little fame, they get some free fame. It’s a total set-up,” he said.
Trump’s White House campaign has been scrambling to recover from the release a week ago of a 2005 video in which he bragged about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances. While Trump said the video was just talk and he had never behaved in this way, several women subsequently went public with allegations of sexual misconduct against the New York real estate magnate going back three decades.
SUPPORT FROM PENCE
Interviewed on CBS on Friday, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence defended Trump, telling the “This Morning” show, “Stay tuned. I know there’s more information that’s going to be coming out that will back his claim that this is all categorically false.”
Pence gave no details about the forthcoming information. On Thursday, Trump also said he would make public information showing the allegations against him were false, without giving details.
In denying the allegations, Trump has said The New York Times, which published two women’s claims, and other media, along with Clinton, are engaged in a vicious campaign to stop him from winning the election.
Trump, 70, on Friday mocked one of the women cited in the Times article, Jessica Leeds. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” he said. Leeds, who is now 74, alleged that Trump groped her on a flight to New York, in or around 1980.
He called Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter who wrote in People magazine that Trump kissed her and pinned her against a wall, a “liar” and told the rally to “check out her Facebook page, you’ll understand.”
RYAN: ‘TAKE THE HIGH GROUND’
Many Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Trump. The most senior of them, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, angered Trump when he announced this week he would no longer campaign for Trump or defend him but would focus on trying to preserve the Republican majorities in Congress in the election.
Ryan gave a campaign speech in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday without mentioning Trump’s name once. He urged college Republicans to look beyond the “ugliness” of the presidential campaign to focus on issues such as tax and healthcare reform.
“The kind of election we really want to have, it’s not the one we’re necessarily having right now,” Ryan said, urging students to “take the high ground.”
DISPUTES WITH MEXICO
Trump on Friday also accused Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim – the top shareholder in The New York Times Company (NYT.N: Quote) – of helping to generate the reports of sexual misconduct.
He said Slim, as a donor to the Clinton Foundation charity who also holds a 17.35 percent stake in the Times, has an interest in helping her White House campaign.
Arturo Elias, Slim’s spokesman and son-in-law, said Slim had “absolutely no contact” with the newspaper’s reporters or editors on their Trump campaign coverage and “zero” contact with the paper’s news operations.
New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement, “Carlos Slim is an excellent shareholder who fully respects boundaries regarding the independence of our journalism. He has never sought to influence what we report.”
Trump’s allegation about Slim was the latest chapter in a running series of skirmishes he has had with Mexico and Mexicans.
Trump kicked off his campaign last year accusing Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States and promised to build a wall along the southern U.S. border that he said he would make Mexico pay for.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Doina Chiacu, Susan Cornwell, Michael O’Boyle, Anna Driver, Jessica Toonkel, Jeff Mason, Timothy Gardner; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry and Howard Goller)