US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct “should be heard.”
“Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with,” Haley said on CBS’s Face the Nation when asked about allegations of misconduct leveled against Trump.
“And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”
Haley, a former governor and one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration, said “the time has come” to bring “a conscience” to the way women are treated in the United States.
The comments were a surprising break from the assertion by the administration that the allegations are simply unfounded and that voters dismissed them when they elected Trump.
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances, including forcible kissing or groping.
There is growing concern within the administration that the president may not escape renewed scrutiny at a time when a number of powerful men have been forced to step down because of sexual impropriety.
Weeks before the presidential election last November, The Washington Post released a tape in which Trump boasted about how he sexually assaulted women because he was powerful.
The Access Hollywood tape triggered a wave of allegations against Trump. But the president in recent weeks has cast doubt on the authenticity of the 2005 tape, despite publicly acknowledging last year that, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
Some of the women who first accused Trump during the presidential campaign have expressed a renewed desire to press their case.
The president, however, has so far escaped the fallout relatively unscathed. He has used Twitter to mock others accused of sexual misconduct, including Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who announced his resignation last week.
Two lawmakers in the House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. John Conyers from Michigan and Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, have also stepped down over allegations of crude sexual behavior.
Congressional Republicans have been sharply divided over how to respond to the case of Roy Moore, the Senate candidate in Alabama, who has been accused of molesting a teenage girl and pursuing other teenagers decades ago.
Trump has officially endorsed Moore, calling the allegations against him “troubling” but stressing that he is needed in the Senate to advance the Republican agenda.