Columnist E. Jean Carroll sues Donald Trump for defamation and battery over alleged rape

The former US president is accused of raping the writer in the mid-1990s, and making defamatory statements about the allegations

E. Jean Carroll sues Donald Trump
E. Jean Carroll, pictured in 2020, in court in New York, at a hearing related to her initial lawsuit against Donald Trump.John Minchillo (AP)

Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Donald Trump three years ago of allegedly raping her in the 1990s, filed a new lawsuit against the former US president on Thursday in New York. The writer filed the suit under a new state law, the Adult Survivors Act, which gives sexual assault victims a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers, even if the abuse occurred long ago and statutes of limitations have expired.

In the new lawsuit, Carroll is suing Trump for battery for the alleged rape, and for defamation over comments he made regarding her allegations. In her 2019 book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, the writer said that Trump raped her in the changing room of an upscale Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. At the time of the attack, Carroll was hosting the television show Ask E. Jean, inspired in her famous column in Elle magazine.

Trump, who was president when the book was published, responded to the allegations by saying the attack could never have happened because Carroll was “not my type.” His comments prompted Carroll to file a defamation suit, but that claim became stalled by a legal dispute over whether Trump was legally immune from Carroll’s first lawsuit because he had spoken in his capacity as president. Carroll had not been able to sue the former president for battery, as the attack took place decades ago, meaning the statues of limitation had expired.

In her book, Carroll said that she ran into Trump by chance at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York, and that he asked her for help finding a gift for a woman. The columnist said that Trump took her first to the handbags section, then to the hats section and finally to the lingerie section. According to her account, Trump grabbed a grayish lilac bodysuit, asked her to try it on and accompanied her to the dressing room.

She writes: “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. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.” After a struggle, she was able to escape, according to her account in the book.

Carroll acknowledges in the book that she did not report the attack to the police and that she has no proof. She said she told two friends about the incident. The first friend, a journalist, begged her to go to the police and offered to go with her. The second, also a journalist, recommended that she remain quiet, telling her: “Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.”

When the book was published, Trump denied the allegations, saying “this ‘Ms Bergdorf Goodman’ case is a complete con job.” In the face of the new lawsuit, the US president has maintained the accusations are a “lie.”

“I don’t know this woman, have no idea who she is, other than it seems she got a picture of me many years ago, with her husband, shaking my hand on a reception line at a celebrity charity event,” Trump posted on his social media platform Truth Social.

Carroll is seeking unspecified damages for defamation and battery. “Trump’s underlying sexual assault severely injured Carroll, causing significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harms, loss of dignity, and invasion of her privacy,” the suit alleges, adding: “His recent defamatory statement has only added to the harm that Carroll had already suffered.”

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