Using comprehensive firsthand interviews, transcripts and court reports, a disturbing new book, "All the President’s Women", discovers at least 67 separate accusations of inappropriate behaviour, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact by US President Donald Trump.
Backstage at the Oscar de la Renta fashion show in New York in the early '90s, Trump suddenly appeared in the dressing room and all the teenage models grabbed their robes. “OK now ladies, drop 'em,” he said as he threw his arms open. He strode around the dressing room oblivious to the young girls’ obvious discomfort. But Trump was not alone. His then pregnant wife Ivana trailed unhappily behind him.
This was the first time 21-year-old model NaKina Carr encountered Trump, but it would prove to be far from the last. She spoke about her experiences for the first time in an interview for "All the President’s Women".
Although the president continues to assert that he is untouchable, this book, published by Hachette, reveals many new examples of the president’s penchant for touching women inappropriately. All of them are alarming.
As the book relates, "Trump’s hands, the size of which would later become the subject of significant public curiosity, were infamous for other reasons back then, according to sources. 'He was gropey ... he had his hands in the most inappropriate places, always,' Carr said. 'When he would kiss someone, the hand went to either the hip or the butt.'”
An unwelcome visitor backstage at a lingerie show, Trump is said to have moved his hands all over a model’s breasts under the pretense of inspecting the fabric of her bra.
Subtitled "Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator", the book was co-written by former executive editor of the National Enquirer Barry Levine and FRANCE 24 journalist Monique El-Faizy, author of "God and Country: How Evangelicals Have Become America’s New Mainstream". It pulls no punches in its detailed portrait of the many alleged sexual improprieties and assaults of the 45th American president.
Levine approached El-Faizy with the book proposal, but she admits her first instinct was to turn it down. “I did not want to spend my time living with all these horrible disgusting stories of his disrespect,” she says. “But I had read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, ‘Between the World and Me’, and that book really got me thinking about complicity and how, when you aren’t actively confronting things and calling them out, you yourself become part of them."
“If I allowed myself to ignore it, do I then become complicit in the silencing of women and allowing rape culture to continue? I realised I had to overcome my own discomfort in order to be part of the fight. Seeing all these women’s stories together made me realise that Trump was systematically preying on women.”
Like Carr, a number of the women cited in the book were going public with their Trump ordeals for the first time. Many of these women said they felt a sense of shame over their encounters with Trump.
“Women blame themselves and society blames women. It’s their fault for not screaming, it’s their fault for being paralysed by fear,” says El-Faizy. "I think it is very hard to know what you would do in the same situation. But you realise it has nothing to do with these individual women. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
“Trump was going to prey on somebody that day and if it wasn’t them it would have just been someone else. This is about male predatory behaviour and not about anything the women did.”
The first woman in Trump’s life – and the one who helped to shape his stereotypical attitude towards women – was his mother, Mary.
Mary suffered complications after the birth of her fifth child, Robert, and she was forced to stay in hospital for a prolonged time. This absence came at a crucial developmental stage for Trump, then a toddler. When she was back at home, she was the perfect housewife and her real estate mogul husband Fred was the traditional breadwinner.
“She was an ideal woman,” according to her son.
Trump’s motto seems to be never surrender, always hit back and then claim victory no matter what the reality. This is a man who not only objectifies and diminishes women, he openly brags about how easy it is to sexually assault them.
Humiliation is central to how he relates to women. He focuses his predatory behaviour on women who are much younger and less powerful.
Speaking at the 2017 Golden Globes, Meryl Streep talked about his "instinct to humiliate".
“When it’s modeled by someone in a public platform, it filters down into everyone’s life, because it gives permission for others to do the same. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,” Streep said.
Dodging the Epstein bullet
The '80s for Trump were all about models, many of them quite young. Trump eventually set up his own agency, Trump Model Management. And, from 1996 to 2015, he owned the Miss Universe pageant.
The connection to Jeffrey Epstein, the late American financier, was made in the '90s.
In the United States, dozens of Epstein's victims say they were sexually abused as part of a sex-trafficking ring orchestrated by Epstein, who allegedly killed himself in prison in early August.
French police launched a sexual abuse investigation into Epstein in August.
On Thursday, Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modelling agent suspected of procuring young women for the disgraced American billionaire, was formally accused of sexual harassment, French judicial sources said.
“I think a lot of men have dodged a bullet with Epstein’s death and, yes, Trump was definitely one of them,” says El-Faizy.
Describing his friend, Trump said Epstein was a “terrific guy, he’s a lot of fun to be with".
"It’s even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Trump and the church
"All the President’s Women" also examines Trump’s relationship with the church. Trump clings to religion and blatantly uses it to court certain US constituencies. He has even added his own personal pastor, Paula White, to the White House administration.
“I don’t think there is any sincerity to his religion,” says El-Faizy. “He knows if he gets the evangelicals he can win, and they are an easy crowd for him to get. But I think it is cynicism on both sides. It is a craven association for the Christian community as well; Trump clearly does not share their values. But many of them will say they don’t care, that Trump is doing what they need him to do and that’s enough for them not to care.”
Regression and progression
The book, in broader terms, also looks at the effect of Trump’s presidency on America. He has both regressed the country and galvanised it.
His statements on abortion have left many worried that the seminal 1973 Roe vs Wade legalisation ruling may be revisited, even overturned. “And I think he is affecting women globally too. He is fighting things that relate to women in the UN too.”
But El-Faizy says Trump’s actions have also served to invigorate women, and that his election was a catalyst for the #MeToo movement.
“We have a record-breaking six female presidential candidates and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. He has spurred women into political activism when they were perhaps complacent,” says El-Faizy.
She recognises that this book is a difficult read, but she believes it is imperative that people confront Trump’s unpalatable past.
“This is the president of the United States. We cannot ignore his behaviour. We have to look at it squarely in the eye to know exactly what we are dealing with. It is too easy to turn a blind eye.”