Columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of sexual assault, sues him for defamation

Carroll says Trump's denials and counter-attacks against her following her allegations "damaged her reputation" and "caused substantial professional harm.”
E. Jean Carroll at her home in Warwick, N.Y.
E. Jean Carroll at her home on June 21, 2019.Eva Deitch / The Washington Post/Getty Images

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By Adam Edelman

Prominent advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused President Donald Trump earlier this year of sexually assaulting her more than 20 years ago during an encounter in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, filed a defamation suit against the president Monday, alleging that his sharply worded denials and subsequent attacks damaged her reputation.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Trump, "through express statements and deliberate implications, accused Carroll of lying about the rape in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money."

"Trump knew that these statements were false; at a bare minimum, he acted with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity,” the complaint said, adding that Trump’s statements "inflicted emotional pain and suffering, they damaged her reputation, and they caused substantial professional harm."

In a statement, Carroll said she was "filing this lawsuit for every woman who’s been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotions, fired, and forgotten."

"While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so," she added.

Carroll, according to the complaint, is suing for Trump to retract the statements and to pay compensatory and punitive damages.

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Carroll is far from the only woman to accuse Trump of misconduct. According to an NBC News list from 2016, at least a dozen other women have accused Trump of sexual harassment, assault, or other inappropriate behavior. One of those women, Summer Zervos, a contestant on Trump’s television show “The Apprentice” who had accused him of unwanted kissing and groping, has also filed a defamation suit against the president, alleging that he defamed her when he called her a "liar." Trump has denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

The White House in a statement called Carroll’s suit "frivolous" and called her "a fraud."

"Let me get this straight — Ms. Carroll is suing the President for defending himself against false allegations? I guess since the book did not make any money she’s trying to get paid another way," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened, period."

"The lawsuit is frivolous and the story is a fraud — just like the author," Grisham added.

Carroll first made the allegations public in June, when she published an excerpt from her upcoming book, titled, "What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal" on New York magazine's website.

Carroll, 75, alleged that a chance meeting with Trump inside the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, in "the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996," ended in a "colossal struggle" during which she says the mogul forced himself on her. Carroll said she did not report the incident to the police, but that she told two friends about it. New York magazine said it had confirmed Carroll's account with the two friends she confided in; they were not identified.

In a statement to NBC News at the time, Trump denied have ever met Carroll, said she was "trying to sell a new book" and accused her of “working with” the Democratic Party to help take him down.

"I’ve never met this person in my life," Trump said, despite an apparent photo of the pair at an event. "Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda."

From left, Donald Trump, E. Jean Carroll, John Johnson and Ivana Trump in the late 1980s.Courtesy E. Jean Carroll

He called on "anyone" with "information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine" to come forward.

"The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations," he said.

He also told The Hill magazine at the time that he wouldn’t have done it because "she’s not my type."