She has spoken for the first time in detail about her personal experience with the billionaire tycoon who this week became the Republican nominee for president.
Jill has stayed quiet for almost 20 years about the way Trump pursued her, and – according to a lawsuit she instigated – cornered her and groped her in his daughter’s bedroom.
She said she resolved not to speak about the events – until Trump publicly said in May that her claims were “meritless” and his daughter Ivanka gave an interview in which she said her father was “not a groper”.
Harth, who feels she has been publicly branded a liar and believes her business has suffered because of her association with the allegations, decided to speak out about her experience with Trump because she wants an apology.
In an interview with the Guardian’s on Tuesday, Harth said she stands by her charges against Trump.
She first met Trump in December 1992 at his offices in Trump Tower, where she and her then romantic partner, George Houraney, were making a business presentation. The couple wanted to recruit Trump to back their American Dream festival, in which Harth oversaw a pin-up competition known as American Dream Calendar Girls. Harth described that meeting as “the highlight of our career”.
There was the initial leering in that first December meeting in Trump Tower, and the inappropriate questions after her relationship status. It continued the next night over dinner at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room, where at a dinner with beauty pageant contestants she alleges he groped her under the table.
It culminated in January 1993, when Harth and Houraney were visiting his Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago, to finalize and then celebrate the beauty pageant deal with a party.
After business concluded, Harth and Houraney were on tour of Mar-a-Lago along with a group of young pageant contestants – Trump wanted to “see the quality of the girls he was sponsoring”, Harth recalled – when he pulled her aside into one of the children’s bedrooms.
“He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again,” Harth said, “and I had to physically say: ‘What are you doing? Stop it.’ It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George, he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?”
She recalled how Trump – who had just gone through a divorce from his first wife, Ivana, and was in a relationship with Marla Maples, who would become his second wife – pursued her and urged her to leave Houraney.
“Trump did everything in his power to get me to leave him. He constantly called me and said: ‘I love you, baby, I’m going to be the best lover you ever had. What are you doing with that loser, you need to be with me, you need to step it up to the big leagues.’
“He was constantly working on me during that time and that took a toll on me. But I moved on. I’m a forgiving type person, OK? I’m a Christian, I moved on.”
After the New York Times ran a story in May this year about Trump’s history with women, including an account of Harth’s story, Trump’s campaign even reached out to her to pressure her to take back her account, she told the Guardian on Tuesday.
“His office – and I have it on my voicemails that he called, that they called – they asked me to recant everything when the New York Times article came out. They were trying to get me to say it never happened and I made it up. And I said I’m not doing that,” she recalled. Trump’s office denied this.
She was further upset by an interview Trump’s daughter Ivanka gave in the wake of the New York Times article saying her dad is “not a groper”.
“I understand that the girl wanted to defend her dad, being it’s her dad,” she said, “but what did she know? She was 10 years old! She was 10 years old at the time. She didn’t know what her father was about, what he was doing, how he was acting.”
Such statements felt defamatory to Harth, adding insult to injury. That’s when she hired attorney Lisa Bloom to demand that Trump retract his statements that are, as Bloom put it, “effectively calling her a liar”…
When Trump’s office was asked to respond to Harth’s allegations, they highlighted her inconsistency about her views on Trump, forwarding emails from 2015 and as recently as January 2016 in which she expressed friendly feelings about Trump and even asked about a job helping to do his campaign trail makeup.
As Harth wrote in an August 2015 email forwarded by Trump’s campaign:
“I also would like to show my support for Donald and his campaign. I am offering my services to do his grooming and getting him perfectly camera ready for photos and Hi-Definition TV. He knows better than anybody how important image is.”
In another email from October 2015, she praised Trump for “doing a tremendous job of shaking things up in the United States” and added: “I am definitely Team Trump!”
Harth said those emails were written months before Trump called her integrity into question. She also defended her action, as a businesswoman who has never been too proud to look for help where she needs it, even if it smacks of opportunism.