On the issue of writer E. Jean Carroll’s recent sexual assault allegation against him, Donald Trump didn’t have a particularly good Monday.
While he told The Hill that “it never happened,” he also said that “with great respect … she’s not my type.”
You can probably guess which quote got more play in the media.
If you want to play the public relations game here, however, the major consolation for the president is that Carroll had a much worse Monday.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN — something that should have been an easy P.R. win for the Elle columnist, given the events of earlier in the day — Carroll described the alleged event with Trump as a “fight” rather than “rape” and insisted that “people” think rape is “sexy,” leading Cooper to cut to a commercial.
In case you’re coming late to the story: Carroll claimed, in an excerpt from her new book published in New York Magazine last week, that Trump sexually assaulted her some time during the mid-1990s when she was working at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
In the excerpt, Carroll claims that Trump “lung[ed]” at her in a dressing room as she was helping him pick out lingerie, forcibly kissing her and then pushing her against a wall, trying to pull her clothing off.
“I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle,” Carroll wrote.
“I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.”
During the interview on CNN Monday, the now-75-year-old Carroll insisted there was nothing “sexual” about her alleged encounter with Trump, insisting she didn’t feel victimized.
“I was not thrown on the ground and ravaged,” Carroll said.
“The word rape carries so many sexual connotations. This was not sexual. It just hurt.”
“I think most people think of rape as a violent assault,” Cooper said, haltingly.
“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” Carroll said in response. “They think of the fantasies.”
“We’re just going to take a quick break, if you can stick around,” Cooper said, with evident unease.
“You’re fascinating to talk to,” Carroll said, eliciting a nervous laugh from Cooper.
Anderson Cooper went straight to commercial right after this comment. pic.twitter.com/hkM7KCYw71
— Cameron Cawthorne (@Cam_Cawthorne) June 25, 2019
I’m sure Cooper felt similarly about her — although not for reasons Carroll might appreciate, in both senses of the word.
When this story broke, I noted that while I don’t pretend to have some sort of special knowledge on a sexual assault allegation that isn’t bequeathed unto the general public, I can spot red flags as well as anyone else.
Carroll has been a public figure for well over a quarter-century now. She would have been by far the most prominent of Trump’s accusers during the 2016 election cycle (porn stars represented by loud-mouthed attorneys might make for more headlines than credibility). She’s generated at least some mention on the campaign trail for 2020 already.
But her decision to make allegations against the president instead came as the advance press for her new book “What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal.”
To this red flag we can now add this interview with Cooper in which Carroll’s attitudes about the incident — and indeed about what constitutes rape in general — are so bizarre as to cast further doubt upon her story, blowing huge holes in it.
Without being a woman and without having been sexually victimized, I think most women would know when they’ve been sexually victimized.
What Carroll is describing is victimization, it meets the definition of sexual assault and it certainly isn’t “sexy.”
I don’t think I’m alone in this estimation. If you don’t believe me, just watch Anderson Cooper squirm.
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