Donald Trump issued a breathtaking call to arms Thursday as he emphatically denied allegations he groped and kissed multiple women without their consent, charging that his accusers are part of a global conspiracy to extinguish his outsider movement.
Scrambling to turn around his floundering campaign, Trump declared war on the media and multinational corporations, alleging they are colluding with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton to orchestrate “the single greatest pile-on in history” and undermine his campaign.
“The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure,” the Republican nominee said at a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and morally deformed. They will attack you. They will slander you. They will seek to destroy your career and your family. ... They will lie, lie, lie.”
Trump’s invective came just minutes after first lady Michelle Obama tried to summon the morality of a nation by saying Trump’s degrading comments about women were an affront to all citizens.
The dueling speeches made for a remarkable moment in a roiling presidential campaign and signaled that the final 25 days would focus not on policy but on character.
The first lady, exasperated and angry, said video of Trump in 2005 bragging about leveraging his stardom to force himself upon women “has shaken me to my core.” Though careful never to mention Trump by name, she sternly admonished him for behavior she called “cruel,” “sick” and devoid of basic human decency.
“This is not politics as usual,” the first lady said at a rally for Clinton in Manchester, N.H. “This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn’t matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way.”
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Trump framed his candidacy in epic, global terms. He said the Nov. 8 election represents “a crossroads in the history of our civilization,” with his populist movement fighting to upend “radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people.”
Trump hopes his revolutionary message will galvanize his base of aggrieved working-class whites to vote in historic numbers and help him overcome what polls suggest could be an insurmountable deficit to Clinton with virtually all other groups.
Trump’s remarks, which he read from teleprompters, were laced with the kind of global conspiracies common in the writings of the alt-right, white-nationalist activists who see him as their champion.
Trump alleged that Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and that media and financial elites were part of a soulless cabal to destroy “our great civilization.”
The speech bore the imprint of Stephen Bannon, the Trump campaign’s chief executive, who until recently was chairman of Breitbart, a conservative website that serves as the virtual town square of the alt-right movement.
Trump leveled searing charges against Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. He accused them of engaging in “a massive cover-up of widespread criminal activity at the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.”
Trump dismissed the claims of sexual harassment made by several women a day earlier as an “absolute horror show of lies” and labeled his accusers — and the journalists who reported their stories — “horrible, horrible liars.
He asserted he could prove their accusations false, but declined to detail his evidence.
So far, there is no evidence that the Clinton campaign was behind the women going public. Two women who told the New York Times that Trump touched them inappropriately said they came forward after watching Trump, in Sunday night’s debate, deny ever taking such actions.
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In his Florida speech, Trump lashed out at former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote in a first-person account that Trump kissed her without her consent at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2005 when they were alone before an interview with him and his then-pregnant wife, Melania.
“Take a look, you take a look,” Trump urged supporters. “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”