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Trump sex allegations: reasons to suspect that the NYT Video is staged

Editorial Staff

Today's big news from those out to defeat Trump (as if he's not doing that all on his own) is from the New York Times. It's an interview with a woman named as Jessica Leeds who the NYT describes as "a businesswoman" who, in a videotaped and carefully edited video, with several TV production-style overlays to emphasise key phrases, says she was a travelling sales rep for a newsprint company in the 1980s when she was invited to move from economy to first class on a flight. "I didn't need to be asked twice," she says. But there are signs that the video might have been staged.

Leeds' body language and speech mannerisms clearly portray someone who is not at one with her story: she stumbles over simple phrases, for example: "it was on that flight that the stewardess asked me to... asked me would I like to move up to first class."

"I sat down next to a young man, blond, tall, and he introduced himself as Donald Trump." Leeds puts the emphasis on "DOnald TRUMP." The emphasis borders on the triumphant: it is almost as if she is saying "see, I got it right."

She says she was "not really aware of the real estate world of Donald Trump." But Trump, in the early 1980s, was a media darling of the New York press. He was interviewed by Tom Brokaw of NBC in 1980, society reporter Rona Barrett interviewed Trump in 1980s - and by then he was both so well known and so (at least superficially) so successful that she asked him if he would ever run for President (for the record, he said "no" but that's not something we can properly hold against him more than 35 years later). His fame ran far and wide: in 1981, Richard Nixon wrote that trump "would be a winner" if he ever decided to be President. Was Leeds being careful when she said "not really aware of the real estate world of Donald Trump?" It is difficult to imagine that she was unaware of Trump the man.

Leeds says that they chatted back and forth, nothing in particular and "it wasn't until after they'd cleared the meal that, somehow or other, the armrest in the seat disappeared and it was a real shock when, all of a sudden, his hands were all over me." Here, there is a clear edit between the two sentences. We don't know why that edit was there but it is the first of several obvious edits. She goes on "He started encroaching on my space, and [pause] I hesitate to use this expression..but I'm going to [pause] and that is he was like an octopus." Again, she applies emphasis to "octopus," as if to say "there, I said it."

But it is her next sentence that demonstrates one of the major flaws in the video: She says, using the same level of emphasis, "it was like he had six arms," and she raises the pitch of her voice at the end of the phrase, continuing at the same pitch "he was all over the place." She emphasised "all over," and she smiles.

Then she goes on, a smile clearly visible "if he had stuck to the [pause] upper part of the body I [pause] I might not have gotten so upset." Still smiling she said "But it was when he started putting his hand up my skirt [the smile switched off.. no acting there because her face and voice mannerisms alter in a synchronised change of mood] .

But unfortunately for the NYT, the interview unravels at that point. She stumbles, she falls into cliché and she goes from detail to vague in a single sentence.

"THAT .. WAS.. IT.. THAT..WAS..IT. I, um, er, I was out of there." Immediately after that, there is another edit break and when the recording re-starts, the sound profile is significantly different. "And I don't think I said a word [edit break]. During the late 60s, 70s and into the 80s, the culture had instilled into us that it was somehow our fault, the attention that we received from men [said with an emphasis suggesting mild distaste], we were responsible for their behaviour. You didn't complain to the authorities, you didn't complain to your boss, if something happened to you, you just bucked up and you went on."

Then her story unravels more: "I thought, gee, I wish the stewardess would come and rescue me." That is inconsistent with her earlier statement "I was out of there." She goes on "And then I decided, I got up, I got my purse and I said "I'm going back to my seat in coach" (that's the American term for the economy section). Here, after being vague, she has detailed memory. While it is true that human memory works in mysterious ways, we are looking at a video, where the interviewee is not live, is not under any pressure for time and there are the benefits of editing. Further, some of the video contains passages where she is not on camera, where she speaks but there are stills of, for example, Donald Trump in the early 1980s. At this point in the interview, she is not on camera speaking and the video is of a pseudo-still (she stands as still as she can while the camera makes a recording) of her standing by a window.

"I was SO glad to get back to that seat."

There is another edit and she begins saying "I started telling my story about a year and a half ago when it became apparent that Trump was actually running for President. At that point, there is another pseudo-still. Then the shot switches back to her, seated. Her face looks strained as the shot picks her up. Her voice, too, is no longer confident, indeed, she sounds a little nervous and she is clasping her fingers on one hand tightly with the fingers on the other. Then she opens up her hands, puts her palms out towards the camera and returns to the use of emphasis "Let me tell you what this guy's all about." Another edit immediately follows, with another pseudo-still as she says "I would like to think that sharing this story would make a difference more than the election and in society's view of women [the video switches back to the live presentation from the chair where hands are now being used for reinforcement of a message] to change some of the behaviour, the sexual behaviour between men and women in both directions and I would like, very much, to feel like I've been a part of that." The video ends with a photograph of a much younger Leeds, although nothing says when it was taken and then, incongruously, a pseudo-still of her holding something that might be a photograph but we can't see.

So, what we have, is an unclear political message about sexual conduct between men and women, a note that repeats 35 year old feminist arguments and (legitimately) hints that some of the attitudes remain, by a woman who impliedly admits that she hopes to gain a place in changing sexual attitudes, who admits that a bit of a fondle was not totally offensive and, therefore, her complaint comes down to a question of degree not of principle. At the beginning of the video, there is some scene setting, some soul searching by the "witness" before the material parts we describe above.

It is important to note that, at no point, does she allege that he forced himself on her (as some media is claiming) and she does not say that she reacted with indignation (indeed, her dignity, as she tells it, is remarkable). Also, while she says that the meal had been served, she does not mention alcohol consumption: it would be more than surprising if alcohol had not been served in first class on any US airlines flight in the early 1980s.

Check out the video for yourselves at the following link and watch it reading these notes.

And think carefully: if the combined brains of the "witness," the camera operator and the reporter failed to notice that she said an Octopus has six arms and to fix that in one of the many edits, what else might be wrong?"

See the video: