Trump has denied ever meeting E. Jean Carroll and has said she was trying to promote her book. The White House did not provide immediate comment Monday morning after the suit was filed.
A writer and longtime women’s advice columnist on Monday sued President Donald Trump, accusing him of defaming her this summer after she claimed he sexually assaulted her two decades ago in an upscale New York City department store.
- Jean Carroll publicly described the alleged assault for the first time in June, in a published excerpt of a memoir. At that time and in the new lawsuit, she said that after running into the then-real estate developer at Bergdorf Goodman in late 1995 or early 1996, they chatted and shopped together before he attacked her in a dressing room. She said he knocked her head against a wall, pulled down her tights and briefly penetrated her before she pushed him off and ran out.
Trump has denied ever meeting her and has said she was trying to promote her book. The White House did not provide immediate comment Monday morning after the suit was filed.
“I am filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled,” said Carroll, who is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, in a statement. “No person in this country should be above the law – including the president.”
One year before the 2020 election, Trump is grappling with a number of legal challenges, including the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill and lawsuits targeting his businesses and finances. Carroll filed her lawsuit in New York State Court, where another defamation suit against Trump has cleared some key hurdles.
In that case, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” says Trump groped her and kissed her without permission in 2007.
Zervos was among more than a dozen women in the weeks before the 2016 election who accused Trump of sexual impropriety, following the disclosure of a videotape in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals. Trump called the women who accused him of wrongdoing “liars,” prompting Zervos’s suit.
But another defamation case against Trump did not survive. Adult-film star Stormy Daniels sued the president last year after he suggested she had lied about being threatened to keep quiet about their alleged affair. A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed the suit last October, ruling that Trump’s “rhetorical hyperbole” was political and ordering Daniels to pay the president’s legal fees.
Carroll’s assertion in the lawsuit that Trump “brutally raped her” stands apart from less violent allegations regarding Trump’s treatment of women. Under New York law, the alleged incident occurred too long ago to try to press criminal charges.
Carroll, 75, tells the same story in the lawsuit that she wrote in the book excerpt. She said shortly after the incident in the department store, she confided in two close friends, who have publicly confirmed her account. She decided not to tell anyone else for fear of of the damage to her own reputation.
While she considered coming forward before the 2016 election, Carroll said, it was the #metoo movement that took off in late 2017 that finally pushed her to tell her story. The longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine said she felt compelled to speak publicly after many women who said they were victims of sexual assault or harassment turned to her for help.
Trump quickly denounced Carroll after she told her story in June to media outlets, including The Washington Post.
“Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda,” he said at the time. “It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.”
Trump also said he had “never met this person in my life.” But the excerpt of Carroll’s book “What do We Need Men For,” published in New York magazine in June, included a photo that appears to show her with Trump at what Carroll said was an NBC party around 1987.
The legal standard for defamation involving public figures is a statement made with “malice,” meaning the person knew the statement to be false or showed reckless disregard for the truth. Trump said Carroll was “totally lying” and “not my type” when she made her accusation this summer.
“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 the thing that juries and judges look to,” Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in a recent interview with The Post. “It looks like malice.”
Carroll is a registered Democrat who has said her decision to accuse Trump had nothing to do with politics.