Harassment of Women

It goes way beyond comments made to Apprentice employees.

By Bryce Covert    Economic Policy Editor at ThinkProgress. Contact me: bcovert@thinkprogress.org

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump likes to boast that he’s been a great boss for his female employees. “I’ve hired tremendous numbers of women,” he bragged in March. “Women are in the highest executive positions.” He claims that his business deals have given “hundreds and hundreds of women, thousands of women” career opportunities.

He did indeed promote women into executive roles at his companies at a time when they were scarce in C-suites, telling them that while men are better than women, “a good woman is better than 10 good men.”

But no matter how he may have boosted the careers of some women, other accounts tell another, simultaneous story: employees claim that he repeatedly harassed and demeaned women who worked for him.

On Monday, the Associated Press published interviews with dozens of former employees on Donald Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.”

Many of those interviewed by the AP recalled Trump talking about which female contestants he found attractive and wanted to sleep with, even in front of cameras, and asking male contestants who they would sleep with.

In the middle of the taping of one episode, one former crew member said, “He just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, ‘You’d fuck her, wouldn’t you? I’d fuck her. C’mon, wouldn’t you?” At other times, he would use a break in conversation during episodes to ask male contestants to rate the attractiveness of the female ones with the cameras rolling.

One comment even made it onto air: After female contestant Brande Roderick had sunk to her knees to beg for a position on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump told her, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

A number of former crew members interviewed by the AP remembered him having his eyes on one camerawoman in particular. He would stop production to make comments about her buttocks, as well as to compare her to looks to those of his daughter, Ivanka. “I remember him comparing Ivanka to her and saying that only Ivanka was prettier,” Rebecca Arndt, a camera assistant, recalled. “It was supposed to be considered a compliment, but of course it was inappropriate.”

Cast members also remember him asking one female contestant to twirl in front of him so he could look at her body. He reportedly wanted the women to wear more revealing dresses and asked one woman about her breast size.

The Trump campaign has denied all of the stories reported by the AP. “These outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees, have no merit whatsoever,” said Hope Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, told the outlet.

But they are far from the only allegations that Trump has harassed and mistreated women who worked for him.

One woman who encountered Trump in a professional setting sued him for sexual harassment as well as sexual assault, claiming he attempted to rape her. Jill Harth and her then-fiancé George Houraney, who was also her business partner, flew up to New York to have a meeting with Trump in 1992 to give him a presentation about working together on a beauty pageant.

According to the complaint she filed, in the middle of the meeting Trump turned to Houraney and asked, “Are you sleeping with her?” At the next meeting, Harth alleged that Trump put his hands on her thighs and genitals under the table against her will and then later in the evening introduced her to business associates as his “new girlfriend.”

Harth alleged that he then began making lewd comments and demands, calling her on the phone to demand that she “sleep with him.”

Then in January 1993, the complaint says that after a business meeting concluded he forcibly brought her to a bedroom and subjected her to unwanted advances, including touching her genitals, in “attempted rape.”

“He put out that he’s the type of guy that gets what he wants,” Harth told radio station WNYC in August about the alleged assault from Trump. “Donald gets what he wants. And he was annoyed and insulted that I wasn’t going for it with him… for me, it was unwanted and aggressive, very sexually aggressive.”

“Let me just say, this was a very traumatic thing working for him,” she said in her testimony while the lawsuit was ongoing.

Harth eventually withdrew her case as a condition of a settlement Trump reached with Houraney over a separate lawsuit over a breach of contract. In response to WNYC’s story, the Trump campaign said, “Mr. Trump denies each and every statement made by Ms. Harth, as these 24-year-old allegations lack any merit or veracity.”

Donald Trump addresses Miss USA contestants in 2011. CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Drew

Many stories of his inappropriate behavior come from Trump’s tenure managing the Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. Temple Taggart, who was a contestant in 1997, says he kissed her on the lips. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, gross,’” she told the New York Times earlier this year. “I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’”

Carrie Prejean, another contestant, has written about Trump demeaning the contestants en masse. They were made to line up in their swimsuits on stage, and he walked by all of them, inspecting them “closer than any general ever inspected a platoon,” she wrote. “It became clear that the point of the whole exercise was for him to divide the room between girls he personally found attractive and those he did not. Many of the girls found the exercise humiliating.”

One story has gained notoriety in particular: his public humiliation of Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado for gaining some weight once she got the crown. Other contestants have also said he told them to lose weight; one said he told her to “suck [her] stomach in.”

The behavior also showed up in his high-level business dealings.

Barbara Res, who worked as executive vice president at the Trump Organization, said she had to endure humiliating observations about her body too. She says Trump told her, “You like your candy” after she had gained some weight. “It was him reminding me that I was overweight,” she told the New York Times.

Res described Trump placing outsized importance on lower-level female employees’ looks: For an important business meeting, he told her to get a prettier female employee to take lunch orders. “That was purely about looks,” she said. “He wanted the people in that room to think that all the women who worked for him were beautiful.”

These kinds of allegations even made it into court battles. As part of a lawsuit brought against one of Trump’s golf clubs over a lack of meal and rest breaks in 2012, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, employees and managers described being pressured to hire and display attractive young women and to fire overweight ones at Trump’s behest.

“I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Hayley Strozier, director of catering at the club until 2008, said in a sworn declaration. She also said that two different Trump employees told her to fire a woman “because ‘Mr. Trump doesn’t like fat people.’”

Other employees reported that several women were fired or quit because they were told they weren’t pretty enough.

In the same court documents, other employees described inappropriate behavior from Trump when he visited the club. He allegedly brought one “young, attractive” hostess over to a meeting and then said to the other men present, “See, you don’t have to go to Hollywood to find beautiful women,” then turned to the woman and asked, “Do you like Jewish men?” Another server recalled that she “consistently found Mr. Trump to be overly familiar and unprofessional.”

Trump settled most of the lawsuits without admitting any wrongdoing, while one employee’s claim that she was fired for complaining about how the company treated women was settled separately.

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