Just one of many “hideous men” (including Les Moonves) with whom she’s had harrowing encounters over the years, claims Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll. Although Trump is presumably the only one of whom she’d say, “I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.”
Occasionally I’m reminded that the sitting president is facing more than a dozen on-the-record accusations of sexual misconduct, including this new one by a well-known author alleging rape, and not only does no one bother him much about it, it’s almost impossible to imagine it becoming an issue in the next campaign.
In fact, says Carroll, that’s partly why she didn’t come forward sooner. (She’s 75 now, and the incident happened almost 25 years ago.) “Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun.” Here’s what she says happened:
The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.
I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.
The whole episode lasts no more than three minutes. I do not believe he ejaculates. I don’t remember if any person or attendant is now in the lingerie department. I don’t remember if I run for the elevator or if I take the slow ride down on the escalator. As soon as I land on the main floor, I run through the store and out the door — I don’t recall which door — and find myself outside on Fifth Avenue.
Read the longer account and some questions will occur to you. For starters, it sounds like she and Trump barely knew each other. They’d met once before but apparently didn’t know each other well. Carroll claims that when she and Trump ran into each other near the store’s entrance, he greeted her with, “Hey, you’re that advice lady!” He was there to buy a gift for a woman friend, she says, and talked her into helping him pick something out, flirting with her a bit in encouraging her to try on the outfit he had in mind. Then they’re in the dressing room together and he’s raping her. This wasn’t, in other words, Trump taking liberties with a woman whom he knew well and might have had reason to believe wouldn’t report him. This is a chance encounter that seems to have gone from hiya-howareya to rape in the span of less than an hour.
In a public place, too — the Bergdorf Goodman lingerie department, where, Carroll allows, you’re almost always being tailed by an attendant. But not that day, wouldn’t you know it. If things happened the way she says, Trump was both extraordinarily reckless and extraordinarily lucky. If Carroll had bumped into an attendant who had heard a commotion in the dressing room, would she have spilled the beans right then and there? Trump’s career might have ended on the spot. Would he really have taken that chance?
And while it’s understandable that Carroll would fear being denigrated by fans of President Trump now that she’s come forward, he’s only been President Trump for three years. She had two decades to tell the ostensible truth about Citizen Trump. Why didn’t she?
But there are points in Carroll’s favor too. Here’s a big one:
I told two close friends. The first, a journalist, magazine writer, correspondent on the TV morning shows, author of many books, etc., begged me to go to the police.
“He raped you,” she kept repeating when I called her. “He raped you. Go to the police! I’ll go with you. We’ll go together.”
My second friend is also a journalist, a New York anchorwoman. She grew very quiet when I told her, then she grasped both my hands in her own and said, “Tell no one. Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.” (Two decades later, both still remember the incident clearly and confirmed their accounts to New York.)
New York magazine confirmed with those two friends that Carroll did tell them about the incident with Trump at the time. That’s the ingredient that was present in so many stories about Harvey Weinstein and conspicuously absent in the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh — contemporaneous corroboration. If Carroll fabricated the story 20+ years ago but never repeated the lie to anyone except a pair of friends in confidence, what was her supposed motive? She hasn’t sued Trump. She didn’t even reveal this during the campaign, when it might have hurt him. What did she gain by this alleged lie?
From her description, it sounds like both of her friends are known to TV audiences, at least locally. I wonder if we’ll see them step up this week to confirm it.
One other point. I always pay attention in stories about sexual assault for what we might call “admissions against interest” by the alleged victim, the logic being that someone who’s out to smear an innocent man due to some unknown personal vendetta would be likely (although not certain) to concoct a story that’s as unambiguous as possible. Carroll’s admission that she was laughing for at least part of this struck me as something that a fabricator would be unlikely to invent, precisely because it creates some ambiguity about whether her attacker thought she was receptive to his advance or even about whether the “attack” was as forceful as she’s claiming. You don’t laugh your way through a rape, right? But maybe you do laugh at the start, when you’re trying to play off an unwelcome advance as a joke in hopes of making it stop before it turns ugly. And Carroll says that after she laughed it turned into a “colossal struggle” that went on for minutes. The point, though, is that a pure fabrication wouldn’t need to include a detail like that; it smacks of something that a victim would include because it really did happen and she’s intent on giving you her recollection as fully as she can, even the parts that might encourage a skeptic.
Anyway, unless her friends speak up, this is likely to disappear off the wires before the weekend is out. That’s just how the news cycle rolls now.
In lieu of an exit question, go read about another public servant who’s been accused of multiple sexual assaults — and who seems sort of glad about it, as it’s raised his public profile. It’s very on-brand for 2019 that a pol accused of multiple rapes views it mainly through the prism of name recognition.
Update: A few Trump fans have noted on Twitter that Carroll’s story sounds a bit like what Trump described on the “Access Hollywood” tape, with him allegedly grabbing her by the — well, you know — with the insinuation being that Carroll fabricated her claim to make it match up to the tape. Carroll allegedly told this story to two friends some 20 years ago, though. The “Access Hollywood” tape wasn’t recorded until 2005. Maybe we’ll get to hear from her friends eventually about what precisely she told them about her interaction with Trump, i.e. whether she included that particular detail at the time. Did she manufacture it later on in order to use the tape as corroboration? Or did Trump say what he said on the tape because he’d done that sort of thing before, including to Carroll?