Trump announces rally with Nebraska gubernatorial candidate accused of groping GOP state senator, other women
- Former President Donald Trump announced that he will attend a rally in Nebraska featuring Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who was recently accused of groping multiple women.
- State Sen. Julie Slama said the report about Charles Herbster "sexually assaulting me ... is true."
- Herbster has denied the accusations, comparing himself to Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and suggested current Gov. Pete Ricketts pushed the report.
Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a rally in Nebraska featuring Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, whose campaign was shaken less than a week earlier after multiple women accused him of groping or inappropriate touching.
Herbster has denied the allegations.
Aside from Trump, Herbster is the only person so far slated to speak at the rally in Greenwood, Nebraska, on April 29, less than two weeks before the primary election on May 10.
Herbster, a 67-year-old agricultural business executive, is described as a "special guest speaker" on the announcement sent by Trump's political action committee, Save America, on Tuesday morning.
That announcement came five days after a bombshell report from the Nebraska Examiner, in which numerous women — including a Republican state senator — accused Herbster of groping them during events in recent years.
State Sen. Julie Slama said she was walking by Herbster when he reached up her skirt and touched her inappropriately, without her consent, in the middle of a crowded ballroom during a Republican Party dinner in 2019, the Examiner reported.
Six other women, who spoke to the news outlet on condition of anonymity, accused Herbster of grabbing their buttocks over their clothes during greetings or while posing for photos with him at political events or beauty pageants. Another woman said Herbster cornered her and kissed her forcibly, according to the Examiner.
In a statement last week, Herbster said, "these libelous accusations are 100% false." He suggested the report had been pushed by his political enemies, including current Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican who came out against Trump's endorsement of Herbster last fall.
"I've respected and empowered women to run my company, my farm, and now my campaign. Not once has my integrity EVER been challenged in this manner. It's only after I've threatened the stranglehold the establishment has on this state do they stoop to lies this large," said Herbster's statement, which he posted on Twitter.
In subsequent tweets, Herbster asserted the "political establishment" is lying about him because "they're scared of losing power." He compared himself to Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the high court after denying an accusation that he had committed sexual assault as a teenager.
Trump himself has been accused of an array of unwanted sexual behaviors by many women in incidents spanning decades. He has denied the accusations against him, which range from entering women's dressing rooms to sexual assault. In an infamous audio recording unearthed during the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Trump bragged about being able to make sexual advances toward women without consent because "when you're a star, they let you do it."
Herbster's campaign did not immediately respond when asked by CNBC on Tuesday whether he has discussed the controversy with Trump. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Examiner's report.
Slama, who at the time of the alleged incident was 22 years old, said in a statement she posted on Twitter last week that "the report about Charles Herbster sexually assaulting me ... is true."
Slama's statement revealed that she had been referring to Herbster's alleged actions when she spoke before the Nebraska legislature in February and described being groped at an event early in her political career.
"I am not seeking media attention or any other gain, I simply was not going to lie and say it did not occur," her latest statement said.
Recent polling conducted between April 10 and April 12, two days prior to the Examiner's report, showed Herbster locked in a competitive Republican primary fight with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom.
Ricketts, who is term-limited from running for the governor's office again and has endorsed Pillen for the job, called the Examiner's report "beyond horrible" and urged Herbster to "beg forgiveness of the women he has preyed upon and seek treatment."
"Sexual assault is criminal behavior and should disqualify anyone from elected leadership," Ricketts' statement said.
Herbster's former running mate and current primary rival, Theresa Thibodeau, told the Examiner that she had not seen any of the alleged groping incidents take place, but was disgusted by the accusations.
But Thibodeau said she had been troubled by the continued involvement of Corey Lewandowski, Trump's ex-campaign manager, in Herbster's gubernatorial bid. Politico reported last year that Lewandowski was accused of making sexual advances toward a GOP donor during a charity event.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president's oldest son, campaigned with Herbster at multiple stops in Nebraska last week.