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People Editor-in-Chief Says Writer’s Account of Trump Assault Is True, ‘Good for the Public’ to Read

Donald Trump Last Presidential Debate
AP Photo/David Goldman

Numerous women have come forward in recent weeks accusing Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, but Natasha Stoynoff’s account is one of the most damning.

Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine, wrote a first-person essay on Oct. 12 about her experience of allegedly being physically attacked by the Republican presidential nominee while on assignment in 2005.

Stoynoff’s account was unlike the others in several ways: her alleged assault happened on a Trump property (his Mar-a-Lago estate), the assault was aggressive (Stoynoff alleges he pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat), and Trump’s wife, Melania, was on the premises (Stoynoff claims Melania walked in on them right after the alleged attack).

After the article’s release, Trump dismissed Stoynoff’s claims as “lies.” People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle responded by publicly defending Stoynoff and explaining the magazine’s decision to run her account (which was corroborated by six colleagues and close friends).

Variety spoke to Cagle at Friday’s GLSEN benefit in Los Angeles, where he explained how Stoynoff’s story got published.

“Natasha was not, frankly, eager to tell this story,” Cagle explained. “You’re gonna deal with a lot of nonsense when you get out and tell that story. So, it’s not like she came rushing to me trying to tell it. I’d heard that it had happened, fairly recently. I gave her the chance to tell her story, if she wanted to. I think after she heard the ‘Access Hollywood’ tapes and after she heard what Donald Trump said on the debate stage – denying that he had ever (assaulted women) – she wanted to tell her story.”

“Her story is absolutely true,” Cagle continued. “I was happy to run it. I was thrilled to run it. I didn’t want to become part of the story in a presidential election – that’s not really People’s job. However, this was important. And on a personal level, I wanted to stand up for Natasha every single step of the way. And, on a patriotic level, this is information that is good for the public to have. We’re not saying who to vote for, but you should know this stuff and do with it what you will.”

As for Trump’s reaction following Stoynoff’s claims that she wasn’t attractive enough for him to hit on?

“It was heartbreaking,” Cagle said. “It was infuriating, yes, but it was heartbreaking, because Natasha is such an extraordinary person. She didn’t do this because she wanted to be on TV – in fact, she never did a single TV appearance and she never did another interview. She just wanted to get the facts out there. She was after nothing but to do her duty and to do what was right for other women.”

Trump vowed on Saturday morning to sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, following the election.