One of Donald Trump’s former girlfriends is pushing back on a New York Times story, saying her comments were distorted to smear him.
The remarks from Rowanne Brewer Lane, a former model who is the centerpiece of the Times story, invigorated Trump and his supporters and rallied conservatives of all stripes behind their common enemies: the media and The New York Times, in particular.
“Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest because I’ve been on the other end of the media’s distortions and lies,” Ben Carson, a top Trump adviser and former presidential candidate, told The Hill in a phone interview. “It’s the New York Times. What did you expect?”
Over the weekend, the Times ran a lengthy front-page story headlined “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” detailing Trump’s past treatment of the women he dated or employed.
The authors, political reporters Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey, said the story was the culmination of six weeks of reporting in which they interviewed 50 women from Trump’s past.
Several women in the story said Trump made unwelcome sexual advances or sought to shame them by critiquing their appearances.
For Trump’s critics, the story confirmed an existing narrative about him being a sexist and a misogynist. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was repeatedly forced to defend Trump against the charges in a string of appearances on Sunday’s political talk shows.
But Brewer Lane, who was mentioned at the beginning of the story, claimed Monday that she was misquoted and that the paper intentionally mischaracterized what she said to make Trump seem boorish.
In an interview with The Hill on Monday afternoon, Brewer Lane lashed out at the Times reporters, saying she spent hours on the phone with them and agreed to do a photo shoot for the piece because she wanted to let people know “how well Trump treats women.”
Brewer Lane says she was stunned and felt she’d been taken advantage of when she read that her words were used to make Trump appear to be a lecher.
“I think it was intentional,” she said. “They have an agenda to make Trump look unfavorable at this point in the race.”
Brewer Lane, who said she will vote for Trump in the general election, has made appearances on Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN to dispute the Times story.
Trump seized on Brewer Lane’s comments to declare that the entire story had been discredited, tweeting, “With the coming forward today of the woman central to the failing @nytimes hit piece on me, we have exposed the article as a fraud!”
The Times is vigorously defending its work.
The newspaper produced a live Facebook video on Thursday afternoon with one of Trump’s former construction managers, Barbara Res, who was extremely critical of her former boss in the story.
And the reporters, Barbaro and Twohey, followed Brewer Lane in a segment on CNN to rebut her claims.
“We stand by our story,” Barbaro said. “We believe we quoted her fairly and accurately, and the story stands for itself.”
The story begins with an anecdote from the 1980s about Trump courting Brewer Lane at a pool party at his Mar-a-Lago property in tony Palm Beach, Fla.
There, Trump purportedly asked Brewer Lane, about 20 years his junior, to change out of her clothes and into a bikini. After exclaiming “wow” when he saw her, the Times said, Trump proudly introduced her to others as a “stunning Trump girl.”
“None of the facts are in dispute,” Barbaro said.
“I think that story speaks for itself,” he said. “I thought it was a powerful anecdote. There was some key context. She went on to date Donald Trump, which we explained. But the big picture here — we’re talking about a pattern of beahavior with the way Donald Trump reacts privately with women.”
The Times described the story about Brewer Lane being asked to get into a bikini as “a debasing face-to-face encounter between Mr. Trump and a young woman he hardly knew.”
But Brewer Lane denies that she felt debased and claims that she went out of her way to communicate that to the reporters. Brewer Lane said she was mortified when she learned how the Times had framed the story and said she immediately felt compelled to correct the record.
“It was a desperate moment,” Brewer Lane said. “I was very upset.”
But some independent media analysts are unsympathetic to what they see as backtracking by Brewer Lane. Erik Wemple, the media critic for The Washington Post, called blowback against the Times story “laughable.”
“Lane’s recollections are one thing; the bare facts of the situation are another,” Wemple wrote.
“The New York Times is entitled to judge and interpret the goings-on. By any standard of decency toward women, the act of ogling a 20-something model, inviting her to change into a bikini and then proclaiming her a ‘Trump girl’ when paraded around the pool is piggish. The New York Times can and should say so.”
But many conservatives are furious, arguing it’s not the first time the newspaper has mistreated one of their own.
“They’ve demonstrated in story after story that they hate Republicans and will do anything to destroy them,” said Richard Grenell, a media critic and former communications director under George W. Bush’s administration. “They’re not journalists, they’re advocates.”
Grenell noted that one of the reporters, Barbaro, also had a byline on another controversial story in the 2016 cycle.
Last June, the Times reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was at the time running for president, had “splurged” on a “luxury speedboat.” It was one of a “series of decisions over the past 15 years that experts called imprudent,” the Times reported.
The Rubio campaign was furious, saying that the Florida senator hadn’t purchased a “luxury speedboat” at all but rather had bought his family a run-of-the-mill fishing boat with a nearly $1 million advance he received on a book.
Republicans also still remember a Times report from 2008 that strongly implied Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was at the time running for the GOP presidential nomination, had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.
The Times later added a note to the online story saying “the article did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude” that was the case.
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to McCain’s campaign at the time, said Monday that the flap over the Times report would only help Trump.
“It will diminish the credibility and effectiveness on the next line of media stories that come forward,” he said on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
“So one of the good things that will happen for Donald Trump with these stories that are overreaching, it inoculates him pretty far out from the fall election.”