Two of the longtime friends cited by People magazine as corroborating staff writer Natasha Stoynoff's allegations of sexually misbehavior by Donald Trump told NBC News on Wednesday they have no doubt she's telling the truth.
"I believe Natasha," said Liz McNeil, the magazine's East Coast editor. Likewise, "I've never doubted it for a second," said Paul McLaughlin, a Canadian writing instructor who taught Stoynoff in college.
Stoynoff wrote last week that Trump shut the door behind her, pushed her against a wall and "forc[ed] his tongue down my throat" while she was on a reporting trip to Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida estate, in December 2005. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, who was pregnant at the time.
NBC News has not independently verified Stoynoff's account.
Trump has strongly attacked Stoynoff's credibility, and the magazine on Tuesday published the names of McNeil, McLaughlin and four other people who it said had corroborated her account.
McNeil said Stoynoff told her about Trump's alleged misconduct when she returned to New York after reporting a profile on Trump.
"I was shocked, of course. I had never heard of such a thing," McNeil said. "She was shaken up, and I wanted to help her and do what I could for her — protect her."
McLaughlin, meanwhile, said Stoynoff called him from her hotel room the night of the alleged incident to seek his advice.
Stoynoff was "very distraught ... crying at times, angry [and] shocked," said McLaughlin, whom Stoynoff has described as a mentor.
McNeil and McLaughlin both said they supported Stoynoff's decision at the time not to go public with her allegations. Trump was a powerful man, they said, who could have ruined her reputation.
"You have to remember Natasha spoke to us in confidence, and she was afraid of Mr. Trump retaliating against her," McNeil said, adding: "It's really not for us to judge her."
McLaughlin went further, telling NBC News that he actively advised his former student to remain silent.
"What I did was walk through the scenario and really ask myself, 'What would Donald Trump do if she confronted him?'" McLaughlin said.
"I thought that one scenario would be that he would accuse her of coming on to him and would say that she's now trying to extort him," McLaughlin said. "I said to her, 'I think he could destroy you — destroy your career.'"
McLaughlin said that, at the time, Trump "had all the cards and she had none."
Now, he said, "she is not a lone voice, but then she would have been."