We were promised some proof that Trump didn’t do the things his accusers claim he did and here it is. The Trump campaign says it was contacted by Anthony Gilberthorpe after the NY Times published an accusation of inappropriate touching by Jessica Leeds.
Leeds says she was groped by Trump on a flight sometime in the early 1980s after being bumped up to first class. Trump has denied the accusation but, until now, hasn’t offered any proof for his side of the story. From the NY Post:
Gilberthorpe, 54, said he was sitting across the first class aisle from the couple and saw nothing inappropriate. Leeds was wearing a white pantsuit, he said, while Trump was wearing a suit and cuff-links, which he gave to his British flight companion.
Indeed, Gilberthorpe claimed, Leeds was “trying too hard” in her attempt to win Trump over.
“She wanted to marry him,” Gilberthorpe said of Leeds, who apparently made the confession when Trump excused himself and went to the bathroom.
Gilberthorpe seems confident Jessica Leeds is the woman he remembers seeing on a flight in 1980 or 1981 based on the old photo that appears in the NY Times video clip. One obvious question that doesn’t get raised in the NY Post story is how Gilberthorpe wound up in first class across from Trump when he was around 19 years old. However, there is a mention of what he was doing around this time. As the NY Post explains it, “Gilberthorpe made headlines in 2014, when he went public with a claim that as a 17-year-old he procured boys (some who “could have been” underage”) for sex parties with high-ranking British politicians.” Here’s a 2014 story about Gilberthorpe’s claims:
Mr Gilberthorpe claims that at the 1983 Blackpool conference he was asked by Dr Alistair Smith – the Tory Party Chairman in Scotland – to arrange for young rent boys to have sex with two high-profile cabinet ministers, who we are not naming today.
Other MPs at that party were said to include Rhodes Boyson and Keith Joseph.
In that week he presented the then-Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher with a cake to mark her 58th birthday. But he says he also had a more sordid role – using his young looks to find these underage boys for her ministers.
That’s just one of the stories Gilberthorpe tells about Tory Members of Parliament and underage boys. So did this happen? Is Gilberthorpe a reliable witness? It’s hard to say. There has been an official government inquiry into the accusations which go well beyond the claims made by Gilberthorpe. Some news outlets such as the Mirror, the Daily Mail and Vice News have taken the story seriously and included Gilberthorpe as one of the witnesses to the events in question. The Vice story gives some background on the broader accusations about pedophiles in Parliament.
On the other hand, some sources have claimed Gilberthorpe is a money and publicity seeker who has made up tabloid stories in the past. From Private Eye:
In September 1987, for example, he announced his engagement in the Times to Miss Leah Bergdorf-Hunt, a fashion designer from California. The Gloucester Express reported the news on its front page under the headline “Gilby to Marry”. It quoted Gilberthorpe as saying: “Both our families are delighted… I hope this will explain to a few people about my recent visits to America.” But there was no engagement, and indeed no Miss Bergdorf-Hunt. As revealed in Eye 690, the whole thing was a fantasy.
There’s also another significant story involving a married Member of Parliament named Piers Merchant who began having an affair with a 17-year-old political volunteer in 1997. One day pictures of Merchant and the girl, whose name is Anna Cox, appeared in the Mirror. The pictures were screenshots from a video created by Merchant’s friend Anthony Gilberthorpe who had essentially set Merchant up. From Merchant’s own account of the story in the Guardian:
The story was splashed across the Sunday Mirror the next day. Anthony Gilberthorpe had set the whole thing up, ensuring that I was up in York in his flat with Anna, that the room was covered in CCTV and wired for sound. I’d known him for years, he’d been a friend of the family, but he was paid about £25,000.
I resigned, because I felt it was the only way to prevent such intrusion and I felt I could never do my job properly again. I felt huge relief. Then I decided to sell my story to the Mail. The Mirror was furious and stretched the story out on the front page for three successive Sundays, with stills from the video footage. Then they broadcast the footage of me in bed having sex with Anna on their cable TV channel, Live TV.
What to make of all this is hard to say. On the one hand, Gilberthorpe was willing to plan to humiliate his friend for a payday. That makes him seem like a mercenary. On the other hand, he has exposed sexual abusers twice before which makes it seem less likely he’d be willing to cover for someone acting, as Leeds claims, like an Octopus. Still, there’s enough uncertainly about Gilberthorpe’s credibility, and enough other accusers, that this doesn’t really settle the question. It will be interesting to see if the NY Times follows up on the exact date of the flight and the claim that Leeds was wearing a specific outfit. Both of those claims seem like something that could potentially be verified.