The Slatest

Is Trump Lying About Forcibly Kissing a People Writer, or Are These Six People?

Donald Trump.

Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

As I noted earlier on Tuesday, in order to believe Donald Trump’s claims that all of his accusers are lying about the sexual assault and misconduct charges against him, you also have to believe that all of the witnesses those women told of the alleged assaults over the years are also lying as part of some nefarious, multitiered conspiracy.

People magazine hammered that home on Tuesday when it published the names of six witnesses who said they were told some version of former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff’s charge that in the middle of an interview, Trump pushed her up against a wall, “forcing his tongue down my throat.”

At least one of these witnesses was told of the event the very day it happened, and others were told that same week. Some of the witnesses also validated Stoynoff’s claim that she didn’t come forward at the time of the incident, in 2005, because she feared retaliation. Since her story came out, Trump has said she is lying and suggested that she was too ugly for him to assault.

Here’s who those witnesses are and what they say:

Stoynoff’s college friend Liza Herz says she was with Stoynoff when they bumped into Melania Trump the winter after the incident. “What struck me most was that Melania was carrying a child and wearing heels,” she recalls of the encounter, which Trump’s wife denies took place.

Stoynoff’s friend of 25 years Marina Grasic says she was given a detailed account of the incident the day after it happened and that Stoynoff feared retaliation. “She was particularly concerned that if he was capable of such behavior, what else was he capable of?” she said. “Certainly character assassination by a powerful man was of great concern to her, which seems warranted in light of what Trump is saying about her this week. She ultimately decided to stay quiet but be taken off the Trump beat.”

Stoynoff’s journalism professor, Paul McLaughlin, says she called him up in tears the night of the incident and that he advised her not to come forward. “She wasn’t sure what she should do,” McLaughlin said. “I advised her not to say anything, because I believed Trump would deny it and try to destroy her.”

People East Coast Editor Liz McNeil said she was told of the incident after Stoynoff returned from the Florida interview with Trump. “She was very upset and told me how he shoved her against a wall,” said McNeil. “The thing I remember most was how scared she was. I felt I had to protect her.”

Deputy East Coast News Editor Mary Green was told about it later, she said. “In an early conversation we had in her office, she told me about what happened with Donald Trump,” Green said. “She was shaky, sitting at her desk, relaying that, ‘He took me to this other room, and when we stepped inside, he pushed me against a wall and stuck his tongue down my throat. Melania was upstairs and could have walked in at any time.’ ”

Finally, Liza Hamm, a correspondent at People, recalled being told the story. “Natasha has always been a vivacious person who wants to believe in the best of people, and this experience definitely messed with that outlook,” Hamm said.

I guess all of these people could be lying as part of an elaborate get-Trump conspiracy, along with all of the other accusers, and all of the people they told about their alleged assaults by Trump. And Donald Trump could have been lying when he described in a hot mic video assaulting women in precisely the way that these women say happened to them and told contemporaneous witnesses about. And it could all be Hillary Clinton’s and the media’s scheming that is concocting and spreading these fables.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is yet another Trump conspiracy theory that defies reason and has no evidence whatsoever to back it up.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.