In an interview with The New York Times' "The Daily" podcast released Thursday, the two friends E. Jean Carroll says she told about her alleged assault by Donald Trump in the mid-'90s go on the record for the first time about what she told them shortly after their alleged confrontation in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. The interview comes amid growing skepticism about Carroll's credibility after several strange interviews in which she made eyebrow-raising comments and acted erratically. Trump has adamantly denied the accusation.
In her new book "What Do We Need Men For?" Carroll alleges that in the mid-'90s she encountered Trump at the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman and the two entered the dressing room in what started off as a playful, flirtatious interaction, each asking the other to try on a piece of lingerie, that quickly turned into Trump violently raping her — though Carroll has repeatedly refused to use the word "rape" to describe what happened. Carroll also says in the book that she told two women involved in New York media shortly after the encounter, one urging her to report the alleged assault to the police, the other advising her not to tell anyone because Trump is wealthy and powerful.
Though the Times reports that the two women were "reluctant" to come forward, after being pressed over a number of days, they agreed to go on the record in a conversation with the Times and Carroll on Wednesday. The two women, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, told the Times they had very different responses to what Carroll told them. Birnbach is the first to present her account of what she says Carroll told her the day of the alleged assault.
Carroll told "The Daily" that upon exiting the department store, she reached into her purse, pulled out her cell phone and called Birnbach. Birnbach told the Times that she was cooking dinner for her two kids when she got the call.
"She's breathless and laughing," said Birnbach.
Asked why she was laughing, Carroll said, "This is going to be the funniest thing I ever thought of. This is hilarious. So I came out with this, I've got to tell somebody, so I called Lisa."
"I remember her saying repeatedly, 'He pulled down my tights,' which got me to think that's as far as it went," said Birnbach, saying she was laughing along at first, until Carroll told her more. "Honestly, you did say, 'He put his penis in me,'" she said to Carroll. "And I said.... 'What? He raped you?' And you said, 'Well, I, uh... he pulled down my tights.' It was horrible, we fought. And I said, 'Let's go to the police.' 'No.' 'Come to my house.' 'No, I want to go home.' 'I'll take you to the police.' 'No. It was 15 minutes of my life. It's over. Don't ever tell anybody, I just had to tell you.'"
"It was an episode, it was an action, it was a fight. It was not a crime," said Carroll. "It was I had a struggle with a guy; this has happened to me before." When Birnbach suggested to Carroll that she had felt like she "encouraged" it, Carroll responded, "I know I did. I know I did." Asked to clarify, she said she had felt "100%" responsible.
The second conversation Carroll said came a few days afterward. "What I could sense from you is, A., you were handling it as you handle things," Martin said to Carroll. "She doesn't break down easily, and there was none of that as you told me. It wasn't like she started crying, or nothing that was a frantic kind of response to it. It was like, 'I can't believe this happened.'"
"I said, 'Don't tell anybody. I wouldn't tell anybody about this,'" said Martin, citing Trump's powerful lawyers as her rationale.
Asked why she didn't come forward in 2016, Carroll gave a different response than she's given in past interviews. "Shocking as it sounds, I thought it would help him," she told the Times. "And shocking as it sounds, I was correct. ... Because it is a masculine, powerful, leader-like thing to do to take what you want, to have as many women for your own pleasure as you can take."
Carroll has previously said that she didn't come forward because it would be "disrespectful to the women who are down on the border who are being raped around the clock down there without any protection." She's also said she didn't want to have to deal with the pushback. Additionally, she has cited legal advisers saying the case was past the statute of limitations.
In the interview with the Times, Carroll again stressed that she doesn't consider Trump penetrating her against her will to be "rape."
"Every woman gets to choose her word. Every women gets to choose how she describes it. This is my way of saying it. This is my word. My word is 'fight.' My word is not the victim word. I have not been raped," she said. "Something has not been done to me. I fought, that’s the thing."
In her account of the alleged assault in the interview, she said that she was initially "thrilled" about Trump approaching her and the chance to "advise" him on what to purchase for the unnamed special lady. "And I am having just such an engaging time because I have Donald Trump in tow, and he is asking for my advice," she said. "I'm like thrilled that this is happening. ... It's delicious." She said that they go to the lingerie section and he pointed to a see-through bodysuit and said, "You put this on." "I thought, 'You put it on!'" she said. "And the scene really started. I'm thinking, 'This is terrific.'" After the banter back in forth, "which I was loving, and I was laughing," she said, he pointed to the dressing room.
When they entered the dressing room, she said, the flirtatious encounter turned sexual and violent. He suddenly pushed her against the wall, kissed her, putting his weight against her as she started to push back against him, she claimed. "I must have started to stamp [my feet] at this time," she told The Daily. With one of his hands, she said, he pulled down her tights and began to feel around for her vagina. "It had to be with his other hand he unzipped his pants," she said. "Pretty soon he had the tights down, his penis in this hand and inserted it briefly. I don't think it was all the way," she said. The incident was "not long," said Carroll. She said she "may have tried to hit him with my purse, I don't know. ... I have no idea." The one thing she clearly remembers about her response is trying to stomp on his feet, she said. She also said that during the alleged assault, he "didn't say a word" and didn't comment on whether she said anything. She said she managed to push him off and promptly left, noting that she doesn't remember if she took the escalator or the elevator. When she got to the street, Carroll said she called Birnbach on her cell phone.
After New York Magazine published an excerpt of Carroll's book, Trump slammed the allegation in a statement to the White House Press Pool Friday:
Regarding the “story” by E. Jean Carroll, claiming she once encountered me at Bergdorf Goodman 23 years ago. I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.
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.
Ms. Carroll & New York Magazine: No pictures? No surveillance? No video? No reports? No sales attendants around?? I would like to thank Bergdorf Goodman for confirming they have no video footage of any such incident, because it never happened.
False accusations diminish the severity of real assault. All should condemn false accusations and any actual assault in the strongest possible terms.
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.