E. Jean Carroll sues Trump for defamation after he calls her rape allegation "false"

“While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me . . . I can hold him accountable for lying"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 4, 2019 3:45PM (EST)

Donald Trump; E. Jean Carroll (Getty/Saul Loeb/AP/Craig Ruttle)
Donald Trump; E. Jean Carroll (Getty/Saul Loeb/AP/Craig Ruttle)

Calling his denial of her rape allegation “false," longtime magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll has sued President Donald Trump for defamation.

Carroll filed the lawsuit, which includes a graphic account of the incident in which Trump allegedly raped her in the dressing room of the Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s, Monday in New York Supreme Court. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Carroll first went public with the rape allegation in her new memoir, which was excerpted earlier this year by New York Magazine. After that excerpt was published in June, Trump denied ever meeting Carroll despite them appearing side-by-side in a photograph.

Trump called the claim a “totally false accusation” and told reporters he would not have raped Carroll, because she was "not my type.”

In her lawsuit, the Elle magazine columnist calls Trump’s denial “fully consistent with his tried-and-true playbook for responding to credible public reports that he sexually assaulted women.”

Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, filed a similar lawsuit accusing Trump of defamation for calling her a liar after she alleged that he had sexually harassed her. Carroll and Zervos are two among dozens of women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

While Trump’s attorneys have not commented on Carroll’s lawsuit, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham immediately attacked her credibility.

"Let me get this straight: Ms. Carroll is suing the president for defending himself against false allegations?” Grisham asked the Washington Post. “I guess since the book did not make any money she's trying to get paid another way. The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened ⁠— period. Her version of events is not even feasible, if you’ve ever tried on clothing in a dressing room of a crowded department store. The lawsuit is frivolous, and the story is a fraud ⁠— just like the author.”

The lawsuit claims that Carroll wanted to come forward ahead of the 2016 presidential election but remained silent because her mother, a Republican official in Indiana, was “dying” in the final months of 2016. Carroll decided to come forward, the suit says, after receiving a “flood” of letters to her advice column about how to respond to sexual abuse after the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

"Born a baby girl of the Silent Generation," Carroll said in a statement on Monday, "I was taught to laugh off sexual violence and believe that being raped was my own fault. Today, I am a grown woman who is suing the president of the United States for defamation."

After Carroll went public, Trump “lashed out with a series of false and defamatory statements,” the lawsuit says.

“Through express statements and deliberate implications, he accused Carroll of lying about the rape in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party and make money," the suit says of Trump. "He also deliberately implied that she had falsely accused other men of rape. For good measure, he insulted her physical appearance. Each of these statements was false. Each of them was defamatory.”

“He knew who she was when he raped her, and he knew who she was in 2019,” Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said.

Kaplan expressed disgust in an interview with the Washington Post when discussing Trump’s insults toward her client.

“I don’t know what type a woman needs to be for him to decide to sexually assault someone, but that kind of gratuitous insult about her appearance is the kind of thing that juries and judges look to,” Kaplan said. “It looks like malice.”

Trump ran into Carroll at Bergdorf Goodman after previously meeting once before, according to the lawsuit. Carroll was around 52 at the time. She allegedly helped Trump shop for what he described as a gift for a woman. He allegedly selected lingerie, which he insisted Carroll try out. Trump then allegedly grabbed Carroll by the arm and walked her to a dressing room.

Trump suddenly lunged at Carroll, pushed her against a wall and kissed her, the suit claims. She pushed him away, but he pinned her against the wall, pulled down her tights and raped her for up to three minutes, the suit said.

“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 half way⁠⁠— or completely, I'm not certain ⁠— inside me,” Carroll recalled in her book.

Carroll said in a statement Monday that “no one ⁠— not even the president ⁠— is above the law.”

“While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than 20 years ago,” she said, “I can hold him accountable for lying about it. And I fully intend to do so.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh