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Donald Trump Pushes Back Against Sexual Assault Allegations

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is pushing back against allegations by multiple women that he made unwanted sexual contact. Trump is denying the claims, and he's targeting most of his attacks not at his accusers but at media outlets that have reported the accusations. NPR's Sarah McCammon is here in the studio with us. Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hello.

SHAPIRO: Bring us up to date on the latest allegations.

MCCAMMON: So over the past day or so, several women have come out in various publications saying that Trump groped or kissed them without permission, in some cases many decades ago, in others, a bit more recently. One of these women Jessica Leeds, told The New York Times that Trump touched her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt on an airplane in the 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JESSICA LEEDS: It was a real shock when all of a sudden his hands were all over me. He started encroaching on my space.

MCCAMMON: And Leeds has confirmed that account to NPR. This all came out after the release of that 2005 recording last week where Trump described groping and kissing women without consent. He's since said that was just locker room talk, and he didn't really do that. But several women have come out with similar allegations, and the Trump campaign is denying them.

SHAPIRO: And beyond denying them, how is Trump responding to all of these new allegations?

MCCAMMON: He's calling out the media, specifically the New York Times but also The Washington Post, CNN and others. Today at a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., he also attacked a former writer for People magazine who accused him of forcibly kissing her during an interview in 2005 at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Trump said the alleged incident couldn't have happened because they were in a public area. And he told the crowd to take a look at the woman and make up their minds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Take a look. You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so.

MCCAMMON: Trump says all of these allegations coming to light now are just part of a conspiracy to help his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, win the election. His campaign has called on The New York Times to retract their story and threatened a defamation suit. But the newspaper is standing by that story.

SHAPIRO: The 2005 video and the allegations that have come out since are not helping Trump's campaign, and polls show that he was behind Hillary Clinton to begin with. What does he see as his path forward, and what do you expect we'll see over the next few weeks until Election Day?

MCCAMMON: Well, so far we're really seeing Trump digging in and rallying his base. He's striking an aggressive and even kind of an apocalyptic tone about the stakes for this election. So here's something else he said today in West Palm Beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: For them, it's a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds. This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it. On November 8. Remember that.

(CHEERING)

MCCAMMON: So some rather dark words there, again calling out - the context is the establishment, the mainstream media. For me, Ari, this really calls to mind some of the other things Trump has said before about fears the election might be stolen, calling on his supporters to get out on Election Day and watch polling sites in certain areas. He said the only way he could lose Pennsylvania is if the election is rigged even though he's polling several points behind Clinton.

And clearly since this audio came out last week, he's slipped further behind Hillary Clinton. His path to winning is looking very difficult, and he's suggested that he's going to stop worrying about holding back and moderating his tone. Trump really seems to be making a play that he can win by driving out his base. That's a pretty difficult thing to do, but it does seem to be his strategy going forward.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thanks and good to have you here in person.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.