Photos of vintage airline seats suggest you could, indeed, have pulled up the armrest and groped someone

Trump’s on a plane.
Trump’s on a plane.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency is hurtling along and trying not to stall, but allegations of sexual misconduct just keep slamming into it.

Whether or not they stick will be down to how credibly Trump can deal with them, and how credulous his supporters feel. So far, he’s brushed off the comments about grabbing and kissing unconsenting women, which he was recorded making back in 2005, as “locker-room talk“. He said it never led to action.

But several women who watched his denials have since come forward with separate stories of sexual assault. And one of them produced a particularly odd sort of rebuttal from the Trump campaign.

Jessica Leeds, now 74, said that three decades ago, in the first-class cabin on a flight to New York, Trump, seated next to her, pulled up the armrest between them and began touching and kissing her. “He was like an octopus,” she told The New York Times (paywall); hands everywhere.

She fled to another seat, but didn’t report the incident because such experiences weren’t uncommon. “We accepted it for years,” she told the Times. “We were taught it was our fault.”

On Wednesday Katrina Pierson, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, said what Leeds alleged could never have happened. Why? “The first-class seats have fixed armrests so what I can tell you about her story, if she was groped on a plane, it wasn’t by Donald Trump and it certainly wasn’t in first class,” she told a CNN host.

Jon Ostrower, CNN’s aviation editor, began doing some digging. Today he tweeted photos of seats on various models of plane he said were from US airlines in the 1970s and 1980s, showing moveable armrests:

The New York Times asked Trump about the allegations.

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. “You are a disgusting human being,” he said.