A flood of newly published accusations that Donald Trump groped or inappropriately kissed women rocked the race for the White House on Wednesday, with the Republican nominee angrily denying the reports and his campaign branding them "character assassination."
Claims by five women, whose accounts were reported by The New York Times, The Palm Beach Post, NBC, People Magazine and Yahoo News, came to light after he said in Sunday's presidential debate with rival Hillary Clinton that he had never kissed women without their consent.
Trump's denial came as he tried to set his campaign back on track after a video recording from 2005 surfaced Friday in which the 70-year-old real estate mogul is heard making lewd boasts about how his celebrity meant he could grope women with impunity.
Trump has apologised for the comments, dismissing them as "locker room" banter.
With just 27 days until the November 8 election, and Democrat Clinton in the driver's seat with national polls in her favour, the embattled Republican nominee had sought to get back on the offensive.
But the series of explosive new allegations of sexual misconduct put Trump's behaviour with women in the spotlight once again.
'Like an octopus'
Former businesswoman Jessica Leeds, 74, told The New York Times that Trump groped her on a flight in the early 1980s as they sat next to each other in first class.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, Trump lifted the armrest and began grabbing her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt, she said.
"He was like an octopus," she told the daily. "His hands were everywhere."
"It was an assault," she added.
Rachel Crooks said she was a 22-year-old receptionist at a real estate company in Trump Tower in 2005 when she encountered Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning.
She introduced herself and shook his hand, but he would not let go. Trump began kissing her cheeks and then "kissed me directly on the mouth," she told the daily.
"It was so inappropriate," Crooks added. "I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that."
"None of this ever took place," Trump angrily told The New York Times, calling the reporter a "disgusting human being."
'I was startled'
Also on Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post published an exclusive on its website in which Mindy McGillivray, now 36, alleged that Trump grabbed her at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida in early 2003.
"It was pretty close to the centre of my butt," she said of the incident that happened as she was working as a photographer's assistant at an event. "I was startled. I jumped."
None of the women reported the incidents to law enforcement.
The New York Times and Palm Beach Post spoke with friends and family of the women, who corroborated their accounts and knew of the incidents before the "hot mic" video was released last week.
Former Miss Utah Temple Taggart McDowell told NBC on Wednesday that Trump kissed her on the lips when she was a 21-year-old contestant in his Miss Universe beauty pageant in 1997.
Asked about last week's leaked tape, she suppressed tears, saying, "I have a daughter now and it's really hard because you think of sending your little daughter out there with men like that who think like that."
More sordid allegations came from Miss Washington 2013, Cassandra Searles. Yahoo News reported that she had called Trump a "misogynist" in a Facebook post, and said in a comment that he had "continually grabbed my ass and invited me to his hotel room."
People Magazine also published an account late on Wednesday by a staff writer who said Trump forced himself on her when she interviewed him at his residence at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.
"We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us," Natasha Stoynoff wrote. "I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat."
The Trump campaign quickly fired back, calling The New York Times article a political attack and demanding a retraction.
"This entire article is fiction, and for the New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr Trump on a topic like this is dangerous," senior communicators advisor Jason Miller said in a statement.
ABC News reported three senior-level sources as saying Trump is drafting a lawsuit against the newspaper for defamation.
"Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se," Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz wrote in a letter to the daily.
"It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr Trump's candidacy."
Trump travelled to Florida on Wednesday for two rallies, where he ramped up his attacks on the 68-year-old Clinton, calling her a criminal who "has to go to jail" for endangering national security by using a private email account while secretary of state.
He also took aim at Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have abandoned him in the wake of the hot mic revelations.
Clinton on Wednesday campaigned in Colorado and Nevada, where she ignored questions about The New York Times' article shouted by pool reporters.
"America is better than what Donald Trump says and represents," the former first lady had said earlier in Pueblo, Colorado.
But her campaign issued a statement.
"This disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.
"These reports suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behaviour he bragged about in the tape is more than just words."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump kisses a ,Women for Trump, placard during a rally in Lakeland, Florida on Wednesday.