An attorney for Melania Trump is demanding an apology and retraction from People, challenging some of the facts of a People writer's story in which she claims that Donald Trump forced himself on her during a 2005 assignment.
The story by Natasha Stoynoff was posted on Wednesday, and she contends that, while his wife was away, Donald Trump physically attacked her in a room at the Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Stoynoff wrote that she had been sent there to do an interview with the Trumps on their first anniversary.
Charles Harder, who is representing Melania Trump, wrote in a letter to Stoynoff and People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle that several statements in the piece are "false and completely fictionalized." He cited Stoynoff's contention that after the incident happened, she ran into Melania Trump on Fifth Avenue.
According to Stoynoff, Melania Trump asked her, "Natasha, why don't we see you anymore?" She then gave her a hug.
"I was quiet and smiled, telling her I missed her, and I squeezed little Barron's foot."
Harder wrote, "The true facts are there: Mrs. Trump did not encounter Ms. Stoynoff on the street, nor have any conversation with her. The two are not friends or even friendly. At the time in question, Mrs. Trump would not have even recognized Ms. Stoynoff if they had encountered one another on the street."
The letter threatens legal action if a retraction isn't issued.
The letter does not cite the incident with Donald Trump, who has said Stoynoff's claim of the assault "did not happen." His campaign also called her account a "fictional story."
In her story, Stoynoff wrote that with his wife away, "we walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat."
Harder is representing Melania Trump in separate litigation against the Daily Mail after they published a story that cited claims she had once worked as an "escort." The Daily Mail did issue a retraction.
Cagle posted a lengthy defense of Stoynoff and the story on People.com on Thursday, writing that "Ms. Stoynoff is a remarkable, ethical, honest and patriotic woman, and she has shared her story of being physically attacked by Donald Trump in 2005 because she felt it was her duty to make the public aware.
"To assign any other motive is a disgusting, pathetic attempt to victimize her again. We stand steadfastly by her, and are proud to publish her clear, credible account of what happened."
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.