E. Jean Carroll Says Donald Trump Sexually Assaulted Her President Trump is facing a new accusation of sexual assault, this time from prominent advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with her.
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E. Jean Carroll Says Donald Trump Sexually Assaulted Her

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E. Jean Carroll Says Donald Trump Sexually Assaulted Her

E. Jean Carroll Says Donald Trump Sexually Assaulted Her

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump is facing a new accusation of sexual misconduct, this time from a prominent magazine columnist. Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll accuses the president of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s.

The president has issued a lengthy denial of the allegations. Here is a short part of it.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have no idea who she is. What she did is - it's terrible what's going on. So it's a total false accusation, and I don't know anything about her.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Carroll writes about the assault in her new book "What Do We Need Men For?" And she joins us now.

Good morning.

E JEAN CARROLL: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell us what happened. Had you known Mr. Trump at the time?

CARROLL: I used to be a writer at "Saturday Night Live," and I ran into him at an NBC party. We spoke briefly. And in New York in the '80s and '90s, Mr. Trump was a figure on the New York streets. He was very sociable. But in 1995, 1996, I had an advice show, "America's Talking," which was created by Roger Ailes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The former head of Fox News.

CARROLL: Yes. And he saw me coming out of Bergdorf.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bergdorf Goodman, the department store in New York City.

CARROLL: Yes. And said, hey, you're that advice lady. And I said, hey, you're that real estate mogul. And he said, I need some advice on buying a present. And I was delighted, Lulu. I was delighted. I thought it's just charming. He wants my advice on buying a present. So I suggested a handbag. I suggested a hat. So it was very collegial, very friendly. And...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then things took a turn.

CARROLL: Well, things took a turn because he said, I know, lingerie. So up the escalator we go. We go to the lingerie department. And unfortunately, Lulu, I was imagining this is going to be the funniest thing because he had grabbed up from the counter a little see-through bodysuit and told me to go try it on. And I said, no, you go try it on. He said, no, it looks like it fits you. I said, no, it goes with your eyes. The whole thing - I'm just running a comedy script in my head because it's very funny.

And then I made a terrible mistake. I thought that I could make him, Lulu, put this bodysuit on over his pants. That's the concept in my head. And that's where I got into trouble because we went into the dressing room, and he closed the door, and that was it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'll note that you did tell two friends at the time that he had sexually assaulted you.

CARROLL: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we're not using the word rape, although we could, because that's not the word that you have used.

CARROLL: Women around the world are sometimes in terrible situations where they're young, they're being constantly raped and they have nowhere to turn. I was 52 at the time. It was a very short incident in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. I could move on. I could put it in my past. Many women cannot. And so, to me, it's just disrespectful to say - to use the word rape, although it hurt and it was against my will. I bow to the women who really endure sexual violence every day. So I just don't use the word.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should note that two decades later, both of the friends that you told at the time clearly remember what happened, and they've confirmed their accounts to New York Magazine. The Washington Post and The New York Times have talked to those friends as well, and they have confirmed the contemporaneous accounts, although neither of your friends wanted to give their names.

But many people will ask, and, indeed, the president has asked, why not go to the police at the time?

CARROLL: I came out, called my friend. I had adrenaline pouring through my body. The idea that anyone, including me, could make a decision at that point - you know, you think of the horrible thing you'd have to go through with the police. I just didn't want to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what about in the years afterward?

CARROLL: I put it behind me. I rarely thought of it. I was born in World War II. We keep our chins up. We smile. We don't see ourselves as victims, and so I didn't think of myself as a victim, Lulu. I thought it was my fault. And so just, you know, I didn't talk.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You thought it was your fault. Why?

CARROLL: Because I thought it was a joke. I thought we were going to go into the dressing room and he was going to put that on over his pants. And I still think it was really stupid of me to do it. In many ways, I - even though I'm talking about it now, I still have not forgiven myself for it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What's been your response to the statement from the White House? The president denied ever meeting you. Of course, there's photographic evidence that he has met you. And he's called into question why you put these accusations in a book that you will profit from.

CARROLL: My natural mode is to take pen to paper and write about whatever it is I want to write about. And my natural mode is to put it in a book. That's how I live my life every day. I'm doing it for the women, so they can hear my story. And I hope they feel empowered by it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I suppose some people are asking why you didn't make it public before he was elected.

CARROLL: There were so many women coming forward. I didn't even think about coming forward. I didn't think it was my duty.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what changed your mind?

CARROLL: Twenty-six years writing the Ask E. Jean column. And in the last two years, because of the surge of #MeToo, I have received many, many letters from my correspondents asking me what to do. Should they come forward with their stories? And, you know, Lulu, I just felt like I was holding something back. And I love my readers.

I thought, well, OK, I'm going to tell them this is what happened to me and that I blame myself. And, Lulu, I'm telling you for the last 26 years, I've told women, never blame themselves. I did exactly the opposite of my own advice.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now that you have stepped out with this story and it is in the public eye, how do you feel?

CARROLL: I feel the surge of support is so wonderful that I almost can't stand to think about it. It's so wonderful. I have to just stay in my garden here, keep my head down and do my work. And I'm glad I did it, actually - very glad.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: An excerpt of E. Jean Carroll's new book appears in this week's issue of New York Magazine.

E. Jean Carroll, thank you very much.

CARROLL: Thank you, Lulu.

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