Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump reportedly showed up backstage before a teen beauty pageant in 1997, while at least some contestants were still getting dressed.
A former Miss Teen New Mexico contestant that year confirmed that Trump made his way backstage at the Miss Teen USA pageant, but told NM Political Report that some reports of his actions have been exaggerated.
Victoria Hughes, Miss Teen New Mexico in 1997, said she remembers chaperones “saying that we had a visitor and to get covered up,” but stopped short of accusing Trump of inappropriate behavior.
“While I do not support Donald Trump, stories about him barging in on teenage girls is not correct,” Hughes wrote in an email to NM Political Report. “Our chaperones would never have allowed that to happen, and no one, not even Donald, deserves to be lied about in this way.”
Other contestants from the same pageant told Buzzfeed they remember Trump going backstage before they were fully dressed. One contestant reportedly recalled his presence backstage as “creepy” and “shocking.”
Trump owned both the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants at the time. He sold the pageants last year after a backlash to remarks he made about Mexicans when he launched his campaign.
In her email, Hughes said she was the oldest contestant that year in South Padre Island, Texas and remembers being in the back of the dressing room when “the black curtains opened and in walks Mr. Trump smiling.”
She admitted that she was surprised to see him at that specific moment.
“As teenagers, it no doubt caught us off guard, as the timing of the introduction could’ve been better and less awkward for us all,” Hughes wrote.
Hughes now runs her own pageant, Mrs. US Universal, and said as a business owner “integrity and character is everything.”
“I’m not going to stand by and let somebody else say these things,” Hughes told NM Political Report in a brief phone interview.
NM Political Report reached out to the New Mexico Trump campaign through a spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico for a comment. We will update this post if they respond.
Trump’s campaign took a hit in the past week after leaked audio from 2005 showed him boasting to then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about how he “just start[s] kissing” women.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said in the audio. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
CNN also recently released audio from an interview with Howard Stern where Trump talked about going backstage at pageants he owned.
“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump told Stern.
Miss Washington from 2013 said earlier this year that Trump groped her during that year’s competition.
Hughes wouldn’t weigh-in on other allegations, but stood by her memory of 1997.
“I cannot account for his actions during other times and places, but I can assure you that it did not happen at Miss Teen USA 1997,” Hughes wrote (emphasis hers).