Donald Trump's presidential campaign clashed with the media more explicitly Thursday than it has all year, as The New York Times responded to a lawsuit threat from Trump by saying it welcomes the challenge.
The Times' response came from David E. McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel for the New York Times Company. He said in a letter Thursday that the public has a right to hear from women who say the Republican presidential nominee sexually assaulted them.
The Times published a story Wednesday quoting two women who said Trump had touched or kissed them without their consent.
Trump denies the allegations, and added Thursday that recently published sexual misconduct allegations are "a conspiracy against the American people" by the political and media establishment.
Trump has also threatened to sue the newspaper. But McCraw wrote to a lawyer for Trump that if Trump believes the law protects him from critics, "we welcome an opportunity to have a court set him straight."
Speaking Thursday in Florida, Trump said the press "will seek to destroy your career and your family" and that "They will seek to destroy everything about you including your reputation."
But he said that he would "take the slings and arrows" in order to protect his supporters and vowed that America would have a "new Independence Day" on Election Day.
In addition to the New York Times' reporting, People Magazine published a first-person article written by a reporter who said that Trump pushed her against a wall and sexually assaulted her years ago when she was interviewing him at his home in Mar-a-Lago. Trump has denied that this happened, and his wife Melania said that some parts of the story, in which she is mentioned, are false.
Melania Trump is demanding a retraction and apology and threatening to sue People Magazine, the Associated Press reports. Lawyers for Mrs. Trump wrote that the article's description of an encounter between her and reporter Natasha Stoynoff after the interview is "false and completely fictionalized."
Also Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement, unprecedented in the organization's 35-year history, saying the media watchdog was declaring Trump a threat to press freedom because the New York businessman has consistently betrayed First Amendment values.
"A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious," CPJ Board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe wrote in the statement. "Any failure of the United States to uphold its own standards emboldens dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own country."
The group said it was not picking sides in the election but rather, "recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history."