On Friday, New York magazine published an excerpt from E. Jean Carroll’s forthcoming memoir in which she accuses President Trump of a 1990s sexual assault in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. In response, Trump spent the weekend encouraging his supporters to harass her.
In the excerpt, Carroll claims that she ran into Trump in the New York City department store and laughingly helped him select lingerie, taking him into the dressing room to goad him into trying it on, where he then allegedly pushed “his fingers around my private area” then thrust “his penis halfway—or completely, I’m not certain—inside me.”
Carroll explains that she never came forward with this allegation or others because, “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.”
That section calls to mind the experience of Christine Blasey Ford, who was driven from her home by death threats after she accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Kavanaugh went on to become a Supreme Court justice despite the allegations.
Now, in Trump’s response to Carroll’s essay, the president seems to be banking on the same harassment to help him out this time. On Friday, Trump issued a statement inviting the public to take the investigation of the story into their own hands:
“Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda – like Julie Swetnick who falsely accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It’s just as bad for people to believe it, particularly when there is zero evidence. Worse still for a dying publication to try to prop itself up by peddling fake news – it’s an epidemic.
False accusations diminish the severity of real assault. All should condemn false accusations and any actual assault in the strongest possible terms,” Trump’s statement continued. “If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible. The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.”
On Saturday, Trump said the accusation puts Carroll in “dangerous territory,” territory that women like Ford know all too well:
“It’s a total false accusation,” he said. “I don’t know anything about her. She’s made this charge against others, and you know, people have to be careful, because they are playing with very dangerous territory.”
After the Kavanaugh hearings, Christine Blasey Ford wasn’t able to return home due to the epidemic of men threatening to kill women for talking about rape. Meanwhile, The New York Times is normalizing Trump’s public invitation for harassment by calling it an “emphatic denial.”
“This is what happens to women who come forward,” Carroll said in response to Trump’s statement, noting that she’s not following the news around her essay. Why would she? We’ve seen how this plays out before.