The latest woman to accuse President Trump of sexual assault is advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. She claims that she was raped by Trump in the dressing room of a high end department store sometime in the mid-90’s. They were both in their 50’s at the time of the alleged incident. Carroll decided to tell this story for the first time publicly in a new book, which will be available in bookstores near you next week. Though I am far from a reflexive Trump Defender, I find these accusations rather difficult to believe. Here’s why:
1) The story is extremely implausible.
Watch Carroll on CNN this morning recounting her supposed assault. She is coached through the interview by a news anchor, Alisyn Camerota, who sounds more like Carroll’s PR rep advising her on how to answer questions about the accusations. You begin to wonder whether Camerota even realizes that the cameras are running.
Carroll claims that Trump bumped into her at a Bergdorf Goodman store in New York. Trump somehow recognized the advice columnist and the two started playfully bantering back and forth. As the story goes, Trump picked up a piece of see-through lingerie and told Carroll to try it on. Carroll, who was trying to “spin a comedy scene”, responded that Trump should be the one to try it on (“Yeah! You used to be a comedy writer on Saturday Night Live,” the anchor helpfully interjects).
Carroll was apparently so committed to her comedy that she actually went into the dressing room with Trump hoping that he would, for some reason, stuff himself into some skimpy women’s underwear. Trump had other ideas, however, and allegedly began violently assaulting Carroll right there in the dressing room. Carroll “fought back” and eventually managed to escape.
Despite Camerota’s assistance, the whole scene sounds utterly absurd. Even if you believe that Trump is psychotic enough to violently rape a woman in a department store during operating hours, you’re still left with this bizarre claim that Carroll went into a dressing room with a man she didn’t know in the hopes that the man would put on lingerie for the sake of “comedy.” This defies common sense on a number of levels. It’s possible that it really happened, but more likely that it didn’t.
2) Carroll is using her alleged rape to sell books.
Carroll made these claims publicly for the first time in a book. She released the excerpt on Friday, less than two weeks before her launch. That’s exactly what you do with a book launch — start ginning up interest and publicity a few days ahead of time. You don’t want to get people talking too early because then they might forget by the time of the release. If you want to land on The New York Times Bestseller list, you need to get the timing right.
In other words, there is a very transparent effort on the part of Carroll and her publisher to use her rape story to generate book sales. If that were not the goal, she would have come forward a month ago, or a year ago, or 10 years ago. It seems unlikely that a woman who has been traumatized by a rape would be so calculated in exploiting it for financial gain.
3. Carroll doesn’t want a police investigation.
The alleged assault happened in a public place. She claimed there was “no one there,” but there had to be some employees on the premises. Those employees would probably remember the time when Donald Trump went into a dressing room with a famous advice columnist and some lingerie. The security camera footage may be long gone by now, but someone must have seen something.
Carroll also says she still has the dress she was wearing during the assault. She hasn’t worn it since. Fortunately, DNA lasts for millions of years, so that dress could be very valuable physical evidence. It’s hard to prove rape, especially when it happened decades ago, but this case could well be the exception — if the story is true. Yet Carroll does not want to press charges.
She insisted repeatedly that “experts” had told her that “the time had passed” to prosecute the case. But Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed his eagerness to investigate and said that the NYPD would take up the matter as soon as they receive an official complaint from the victim. A complaint does not appear to be forthcoming. Even more bizarrely, Carroll told MSNBC that she won’t press charges because it would be, somehow, “disrespectful” to migrant women:
I would find it disrespectful to the women who are down on the border who are being raped around the clock down there without any protection. The women have very little protection there. It would just be disrespectful.
If she’s worried that her rape claim would distract from the plight of migrants who, she thinks, are “being raped around the clock,” then why did she publish it in a book and go on a publicity tour to talk about it? Why did she tell this story at all if she isn’t interested in holding her abuser legally accountable? If Carroll is to be believed, she has hanging in her closet an item of clothing that could end Trump’s presidency and put him in prison for the rest of his life. Yet she keeps it there in her closet, using it only as a talking point on cable news, thus allowing a rapist to remain in the White House?
That’s hard to believe. The whole thing is hard to believe.