After revealing earlier this year that President Donald Trump allegedly raped her in a department store in the 1990s, author and longtime Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll sued him for defamation Monday, saying his attempts to denigrate her — including lying — have caused emotional stress and career consequences.
In the lawsuit, Carroll argues Trump’s attacks “smeared her integrity, honesty, and dignity,” “inflicted emotional pain and suffering,” “damaged her reputation” and “caused substantial professional harm.” She claims “Trump’s defamatory statements caused [her] to lose the support and goodwill of many of her readers,” citing a 50% decrease in letters to her advice column since she revealed the alleged incident.
According to the lawsuit, Carroll also seeks “to demonstrate that even a man as powerful as Trump can be held accountable under the rule of law.”
“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,” she said in a statement. “While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than 20 years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so.”
In response to the lawsuit, filed Monday morning in New York state court, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham accused Carroll of trying to “sell her trash book,” repeating a line of attack made by Trump this summer.
“Let me get this straight — Ms. Carroll is suing the President for defending himself against false allegations? 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,” Grisham said in a statement. “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.”
Carroll first came forward with the alleged incident in her memoir this summer, an excerpt of which was published in New York magazine. In it, she alleged the then-New York real estate mogul raped her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman, the storied New York City department store, in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996.
According to Carroll, Trump spotted her in the store, recognizing her as “that advice lady.” He then asked if she would help him buy a gift for an unnamed woman. Carroll agreed, and after browsing gifts, Trump allegedly led her to the lingerie section. He suggested that she try on a lace bodysuit, and after expressing reservations, she reluctantly agreed.
“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,” she wrote in her memoir. Trump then held her against a wall and began pulling down her tights, according to Carroll.
“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,” she wrote.
At the time, Carroll told two friends about the alleged rape, but decided not to report it out of fear for her safety and the power differential between her and Trump — and like many survivors of sexual assault, said she blamed herself for the alleged incident.
In denying Carroll’s account in June, Trump falsely claimed “I’ve never met this person in my life” — even though the New York magazine book excerpt contained a photo of them together, and the two traveled in similar social circles. He also accused Carroll of making the claim to generate publicity for her book, attacked New York magazine as “a dying publication [trying to] prop itself up by peddling fake news,” and mocked Carroll as “not my type.”
More than 20 women have accused Trump — who openly bragged about sexual assault on a 2005 recording — of sexual misconduct. The president has routinely lashed out by accusing them of lying and mocking them, sometimes by even suggesting they were not attractive enough for him to assault them. Carroll’s lawsuit points to this pattern as Trump’s “tried-and-true playbook for responding to credible public reports that he sexually assaulted women.”
At least one other accuser has also sued Trump for defamation: former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. Earlier this year, a panel of New York state judges ruled Zervos’ pending case could move forward, rejecting the White House’s attempts to dismiss the suit.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.