The reckoning on sexual harassment continued on Monday, as NBC News aired a live TV interview with three women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct on Megyn Kelly Today.
Anchor Megyn Kelly conducted the interview, speaking with Jessica Leeds, Rachel Crooks, and Samantha Holvey, all of whom publicly accused the president of sexually harassed them prior to the 2016 election. Trump has denied their allegations and the White House maintains that all the women are liars.
During the segment, the women recalled their experiences with the president and described what it was like to see their alleged abuser voted into the nation’s highest office.
“For us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is and especially how he views women and for them to say ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” Holvey said.
At the same time, the women encouraged others with similar experiences with the president to come forward.
“I would love for them to come forward and speak up,” said Leeds, “but we have been enculturated to be subservient, to be compliant, and to get along and that’s a hard habit to break.”
Kelly, for her part, said it’s more difficult for women to level accusations against men running for public office. The comment was perhaps a nod to the special Senate election in Alabama on Tuesday featuring Republican Roy Moore, a candidate whom multiple women have accused of sexual misconduct. Moore denies the accusations in what remains a tight race.
“It’s more difficult for women to come forward against someone who’s running for office.” Kelly said. “There’s just more blowback because people jump to the conclusion—and in some cases it’s true—that there’s a political motivation driving the accusation, but not all.”
Kelly was early to confront Trump about his treatment of women, asking him at the first Republican presidential debate about past derogatory remarks.
“You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” she said at the debate in August 2015.
Trump later criticized Kelly, saying “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Leeds on Monday said Kelly’s confrontation with Trump is what led her to go public with her accusations. (She says that while seated next to Trump on an airplane, he “lifted the armrest and began to touch her.” She says he“grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.” Leeds said that Trump “was like an octopus,” and called the encounter an assault.)
“You didn’t let him off the hook,” Leeds told Kelly on Monday. “And he…said, ‘No way, I didn’t do that.’ I was so angry I was jumping up at the TV.”
The next day Leeds told her story to The New York Times and it appeared on the paper’s front page.