Businessman and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said a story that surfaced this week about rape allegations made and scaled back by his ex-wife in the 1990s is “totally false,” and he put some distance between himself and remarks from a top aide about spousal rape as well.
With respect to the report published in The Daily Beast this week, Mr. Trump said he’s been “treated very unfairly” and that “it never happened, obviously.”
“Ivana was very nice — I mean, with no coaching she read it and she said it’s totally false,” he said on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” “And in fact, she essentially endorsed me … and I was very honored that she did that. That was with no force — I mean, she just came out and did that of her own volition.”
Mrs. Trump made the claims in court depositions that found their way into the 1993 book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump” by Harry Hurt III.
At the time, Mr. Trump had dismissed the book as essentially a jealous smear by a talentless and ugly person. And Mrs. Trump, in a statement added to the book shortly before publication, said while she “felt violated” and her husband’s actions that night in 1989 were not “the love and tenderness which he normally exhibited towards me,” she said that “I do not want my [use of the word ‘rape’ in the deposition] to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
In a statement to CNN, Ivana Trump said the story that recounted some of the testimony is “totally without merit.”
“I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of. I have nothing but fondness for Donald and wish him the best of luck on his campaign. Incidentally, I think he would make an incredible president,” she said.
Mr. Trump said on Fox News that “it’s a total false thing put out by a website that’s failing and losing a lot of money and it’s going down the tubes. And I think it’s amazing what the press is allowed to get away with nowadays, that they can come out with a thing and somebody like me has no recourse because the libel laws are so pathetic and so weak that you can’t bring litigation or lawsuits.”
“But it’s totally false and Ivana said it was false — you can’t do any better than that,” he said.
The news site has defended the story, which also included quotes from Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Mr. Trump, using expletives as he threatened the outlet with legal action and saying that “by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”
Mr. Cohen walked back his remarks on Tuesday, saying in a statement to CNN: “As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely.”
In an appearance Tuesday evening on Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” Tim Mak, one of the article’s authors, said they had reached out to Mrs. Trump for comment.
“Like you mentioned, Donald Trump is the Republican front-runner — he deserves to be looked at, his history should be looked at,” Mr. Mak said. “And I think what’s important here is that Ivana Trump did make these statements about an incident in 1989, and she acknowledged them again in a book that was published in 1993.”
“We’re simply looking at those facts, and I think with his presidential campaign, there’s new relevance to them,” he said, pointing out that Mr. Trump had referred to “rapists” coming across the U.S.-Mexico border in his presidential announcement speech.
Mr. Trump also told CNN on Tuesday Mr. Cohen was “extremely angry” because “he knew it never took place.”
“He knew this website was a joke [and] considered a joke, and he was very angry and maybe he didn’t even understand the question,” Mr. Trump said on CNN. “I disagreed with him. In fact, when I read it, I disagreed. … Who knows what he said, because frankly I’m not sure that they reported accurately anyway. But assuming he said it, no, I disagree with that.”
Mr. Trump also said “he’s speaking for himself. He’s not speaking for me, obviously.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN Mr. Trump didn’t condone or approve of it or even know about it and that Mr. Cohen would stay onboard with Mr. Trump.
He said Mr. Cohen is not a campaign employee and that he works for the Trump Corporation “and what he says and his thoughts are those of his own and do not represent the campaign or that of Mr. Trump.”