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Trump calls allegations of sexual assault ‘false smears’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Donald Trump, escalating his defensive and angry tone in response to new sexual misconduct allegations, charged on Thursday that women who say he kissed and groped them against their will are fabricating their stories as part of a conspiracy to undermine his bid for the White House.

Trump also threatened lawsuits against media organizations to fight what he described as “false smears.’’

“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false,” Trump declared during a midday rally in West Palm Beach, not far from his Mar-a-Lago home, where some of the assaults are alleged to have occurred.

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“These claims are all fabricated. They are pure fiction and they are outright lies. These events never, ever happened,” Trump said.

Trump’s campaign is foundering under the weight of his own crude boasts, which were caught on videotape in 2005 and revealed last week, about forcibly kissing and sexually grabbing women. During Sunday’s debate, he downplayed those words, uttered 11 years ago, as “locker room banter’’ — and said he never actually engaged in such conduct.

Then, on Wednesday, four new reports emerged from women who described how Trump had allegedly assaulted them, raising questions about his truthfulness at the debate.

The pattern of behavior described by some of the women mirrors an account of assaults and humiliations in the 1990s alleged by a beauty pageant executive, including an aggressive encounter at Mar-a-Lago. That account was detailed by the Globe in April.

In one of the cases that came to light Wednesday, a People magazine writer alleged in a first-person article on the magazine’s website that Trump invited her to a private room at Mar-a-Lago in 2005 and started “pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.’’ The writer was at the estate to interview Trump and his then-pregnant wife, Melania, about their one-year anniversary.

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Another case was of a businesswoman sitting next to Trump in first class on a flight more than 30 years ago, reported by The New York Times.

Trump sought to discredit the women at his rally Thursday, even as he recounted the details of their accusations.

“You take a look at these people. You study these people, and you’ll understand,” he said, calling the women “horrible, horrible liars.” He promised to reveal evidence to “dispute these lies” “very soon,” in an “appropriate way” and at an “appropriate time.”

“The claims are preposterous, ludicrous and defy truth, common sense and logic,” Trump declared.

Trump seemed to imply that there was no way he could have expressed sexual interest in the People magazine writer because she was not attractive enough: “You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think,” he told the crowd. “I don’t think so.”

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheered during a campaign rally Thursday in Cincinnati.
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheered during a campaign rally Thursday in Cincinnati. John Minchillo/Associated Press

Trump accused Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the news media of orchestrating a “coordinated, vicious attack” on him 26 days before the Nov. 8 election to distract attention from embarrassing, hacked e-mails from Clinton’s campaign, released all week by WikiLeaks.

“This is a conspiracy against you, the American people, and we cannot let this happen or continue,” he said. “This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself.”

He called the Clintons “criminals” and said, “honestly, she should be locked up” as his supporters cheered wildly.

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An hour earlier, at a rally for Clinton in Manchester, N.H., Michelle Obama said recent revelations of Trump’s conduct with women have “shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”

“It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season, because this was not just a lewd conversation,” she said. “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women.”

Trump has faltered in the polls, and his support throughout much of the GOP has eroded. He trails Clinton nationally as well as in most battleground states.

In an effort to shift the negative spotlight onto Clinton, his campaign has signaled it will continue to highlight former president Bill Clinton’s behavior. Trump sought to turn the tables on Clinton at the Sunday debate by inviting three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual abuse to be his guests.

Republicans, meanwhile, are growing more concerned about losing both the House and Senate majorities. Surrogates are struggling to defend Trump on television, and even some of his most loyal supporters appear to be growing weary.

“There’s a big Trump and a little Trump,” Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, said Thursday on the Fox Business Network. “The little Trump is, frankly, pathetic.”

Trump’s recent comments have also triggered concern among young evangelical Christians, who have been a cornerstone of the Republican base.

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Students at Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Va., revolted this week against school president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump.

“Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him,” students wrote in a letter. “He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”

They said any Liberty faculty or staff member who spoke the way Trump did in the 2005 video would be fired. The students contend Falwell made excuses for Trump when sexual assault is an “atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.”

Trump, whose national rise was attributed to his mastery of television and his ready accessibility to reporters, has also taken on a more antagonistic relationship with the media.

Before his rally in Florida, as Trump held a business round table, an Associated Press reporter asked if he denied touching the women. People in the meeting began booing and telling him “Get out of here!” Trump called the reporter “a sleazebag.”

Trump’s lawyer also threatened to sue The New York Times if it didn’t retract its article. “Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se,” Trump’s lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, wrote. “It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy.”

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The lawyer for the New York Times, David E. McCraw, said the paper stood by the story:

“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. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump paused as he arrived to speak at the Cincinnati rally.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump paused as he arrived to speak at the Cincinnati rally. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Tracy Jan can be reached at tracy.jan@globe.com. Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com.