(ABC News) — The New York Times has responded to a warning from Donald Trump‘s lawyers demanding the news organization take down an article in which two women claim to have been inappropriately touched by the real estate mogul.
Trump has denied that the alleged incidents ever took place and accused the paper of libel, threatening to pursue legal action against the paper if the story is not retracted.
The Times is refusing to take any such action, detailing in a letter from Times VP and Assistant General Counsel David McCraw to Trump’s legal team why it believes that the story should not be considered libelous.
“Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced on a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a ‘piece of ass.’ Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself,” the letter reads.
Beyond libel, the paper argues that it was a public service to publish the story.
“It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight,” the letter reads.
Trump directly addressed the article in question during a rally in Florida today, appearing to suggest that it was produced in collusion with the Clinton campaign.
“So now we address the slander and libels that was just last night thrown at me by the Clinton machine and New York Times and other media outlets as part of a concerted coordinated and vicious attack,” he said.
“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. And the Clintons know it. And they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction. And they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted out denials about the Times story, calling it a “phony story” and “a TOTAL FABRICATION.”
Concerns about Trump’s threats working counter to democracy were not only raised by the Times today. The chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists also released a statement about specific and veiled threats that Trump has made to a free press.
“Donald Trump, through his words and actions as a candidate for president of the United States, has consistently betrayed First Amendment values,” the statement from Sandra Mims Rowe reads.
“Since the beginning of his candidacy, Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. Trump has routinely labeled the press as ‘dishonest’ and ‘scum’ and singled out individual news organizations and journalists,” the statement continues.