Who Is E. Jean Carroll?

The following article includes allegations of sexual assault.

Lawsuits against former United States president Donald Trump are nothing new, but one woman has been particularly tenacious regarding her day in court. Journalist E. Jean Carroll, 78, is perhaps best known for writing the "Ask E. Jean" advice column for Elle magazine for over 20 years, per The New York Times. She is also a former writer for "Saturday Night Live" and has penned several books, including a biography of writer Hunter S. Thompson (1993's "Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson").

In June 2019, The Cut ran an excerpt from Carroll's book "What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal," in which she alleged that she ran into Trump in New York City at the Bergdorf Goodman department store during the time she was hosting the television show "Ask E. Jean" for the now defunct channel America's Talking. The show aired between 1994 and 1996. 

Carroll claims she was walking out and Trump was walking in when he recognized her, calling out, "Hey, you're that advice lady!" to which she responded "Hey, you're that real-estate tycoon!" The two chatted, per Carroll, and Trump asked her to advise him while he picked out a gift "for a girl." After deciding against a purse and a hat, Trump led Carroll to the lingerie department where he selected a body suit and demanded she try it on. After replying that he should try it on instead, the two made their way to the dressing room. 

A friendly encounter turned violent?

Carroll's book excerpt published in The Cut goes on to describe the alleged scene in the Bergdorf's dressing room with Donald Trump. Carroll notes that she found this experience "hilarious" up until that point, and decided she would ask Trump to put the body suit on over his pants. However, Carroll alleges that Trump "lung[ed]" at her as soon as the dressing room door closed, held her against the wall, pulled down her tights, and raped her. She wrote that the "colossal struggle" took place in less than three minutes, that she couldn't stop laughing in disbelief throughout a good deal of the alleged assault, and that she was eventually able to push him off her and run out of the dressing room, through Bergdorf's, and out onto New York's Fifth Avenue. 

Carroll notes that she did tell two friends at the time. One was a fellow writer who was later revealed by The New York Times to be Lisa Birnbach. Birnbach told the Times that Carroll had called her from the sidewalk outside Bergdorf's to describe the incident and was still laughing: "I remember her being very overwrought. I remember her repeatedly saying, 'He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights.'" Birnbach told Carroll she thought the incident had been a rape and encouraged her friend to go to the police. Carroll refused. Two days later she told another friend, fellow television host Carol Martin, who advised her to keep the incident to herself. Martin has also confirmed Carroll's story.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Trump denies Carroll's accusations

As reported by the Associated Press, in 2019 Donald Trump called E. Jean Carroll's claims a "totally false accusation" and claimed not to even know Carroll at all. He reportedly "scoff[ed]" at a 1987 photograph included with Carroll's book excerpt for The Cut that showed Carroll and Trump chatting together alongside their respective then-spouses, newscaster John Johnson and businessperson Ivana Trump. Trump said, "Standing with my coat on in a line. Give me a break. With my back to the camera." Trump went on to note the lack of evidence against him, issuing a statement that read in part, "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." 

The article further stated that Trump had been accused of past inappropriate behavior by over a dozen women during his 2016 presidential campaign, although most accusations recounted Trump kissing and groping them without consent, while Carroll alleged he had forcibly penetrated her. Trump has denied all claims against him. The Associated Press also recounted the videotape of Trump from 2005 in which he bragged about groping and kissing women without asking for permission first, a statement he later claimed to be "locker room talk" and not something he'd actually ever done. Per the Associated Press, Trump would go on to tell The Hill regarding Carroll's accusations: "I'll say it with great respect: Number one, she's not my type. Number two, it never happened."

A second lawsuit is filed

Carroll went on to sue Donald Trump for defamation after he insisted she was lying about his attempt to rape her. Trump then tried to countersue Carroll, but a judge denied his claim in March 2022, per Bloomberg, noting that Trump had delayed Carroll's case multiple times since 2019, calling his behavior "futile" and in "bad faith." Carroll has requested an exchange of evidence before the trial begins, including a DNA sample from Trump. Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, emailed Bloomberg with the following statement: "While we are disappointed with the court's decision today, we eagerly look forward to litigating this action and proving at trial that the plaintiff's claims have absolutely no basis in law or in fact." 

In August 2022, as reported by the Associated Press, Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told a federal judge that in addition to the defamation suit Carroll is bringing against Trump, she also plans to use New York's Adult Survivors Act, which passed last spring. This allows adults who were sexually assaulted to sue their alleged attackers decades after the original assault. Habba has objected to the suit, calling it "extraordinarily prejudicial" when considered alongside Carroll's defamation case, for which any depositions of Trump must be done by October 19. 

As reported by NBC News, on May 9, 2023, a civil trial concluded with Carroll being awarded $5 million in damages by a New York jury that found Trump guilty of defaming and sexually abusing Carroll — but not raping her. The outlet underlined that the civil nature of the case meant the former president would face no criminal legal repercussions.