In 2019, E. Jean Carroll, a journalist and former advice columnist for Elle, alleged in her memoir that President Donald Trump had raped her in the 90s. In November 2019, after Trump denied the allegations and said she was lying, Carroll filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation.
When Attorney General William Barr announced the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) would be taking up Trump’s defense in the lawsuit, it raised many eyebrows. Though Barr defended the move as being consistent with existing law, others expressed outrage that the president was receiving a taxpayer-funded defense in a lawsuit related to rape.
While Carroll is one of more than a dozen women to accuse Trump of sexual assault, she has been uniquely assertive in pursuing legal action. Carroll has gone so far as to request a DNA sample from Trump to establish that, counter to Trump’s claims, they had in fact met. In August, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled Carroll was free to pursue access to Trump’s DNA.
Though Carroll’s name may now forever be linked to Trump’s, she has had a long and illustrious career.
The origins of E. Jean Carroll
Elizabeth Jean Carroll was born in 1943 in Detroit, Michigan, to Thomas and Betty Carroll. She was raised alongside two sisters and one brother in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Carroll has written about her personal life extensively, including in her 2019 memoir, “What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal.” In the excerpt from her memoir that includes her accusation against Trump, she describes her younger self as “the most boy-crazy 17-year-old in the nation” when she entered Indiana University.
Carroll was a cheerleader and beauty pageant winner, winning both Miss Cheerleader USA and Miss Indiana University. After winning the former, she was flown to Washington, DC to meet then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.
After she graduated, Carroll spent time in Africa before moving to Chicago, “ready to start my so-called career.” As she explains in her memoir, her professional life was disrupted at times by multiple “hideous men” who attempted, or succeeded, in sexually assaulting her.
Nonetheless, Carroll persisted in her career, becoming Playboy’s first female contributing editor, writing for Saturday Night Live and emerging as a noteworthy journalist. Over the length of a multi-decade writing career, Carroll has written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and Esquire. She is also currently the president of Tawkify, a matchmaking website.
Carroll has been married and divorced twice.
E. Jean Carroll the journalist
Bill Tonelli, Carroll’s editor at Esquire and Rolling Stone, once said of Carroll’s writing, “All of E. Jean’s stories are pretty much the same thing. Which is: ‘What is this person like when he or she is in a room with E. Jean?’ She’s institutionally incapable of being uninteresting.”
In a June 1993 book review of Carroll’s biography of journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the Independent described Carroll as “definitely a Gonzo or ‘New’ biographer.” She “writes in the Thompsonian cut-up form, and with his tone of giggling excitement when it comes to sex ‘n’ drugs.”
Carroll’s more than 50 years of output cannot be easily categorized as it covers a range of topics and styles. In 1990, she wrote an extensive profile of Dan Rather, while in 1979 she created a challenging quiz about American authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. In the quiz, she describes herself as “a quiet scholar and writer now living in Ennis, Montana.”
As a writer for Esquire, two of Carroll’s favorite topics were sex and love, both sought and lost. In April 1992, she wrote a sympathetic portrayal of the “groupies” who hung around NBA players in the wake of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had contracted HIV. For a June 1995 piece, Carroll spent time literally revisiting her former lovers in “The Loves of My Life” by moving in with them.
Both pieces are peppered with frank details about the realities of sex and a willingness to examine the male form with the specificity usually reserved for femme fatales in noir novels. Her descriptions are not always flattering. “I spied waddling toward me a huge, big, tall, gray-haired man, fat as a pork hog, with a face the color of rhubarb and glasses as thick as wine decanters, and I almost collapsed.”
She also infamously asked Lyle Lovett, country singer and former husband of actress Julia Roberts, if he was truly “well-endowed” as the rumors said. Lovett neither denied nor confirmed the rumor.
E. Jean Carroll on gender roles
In a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose, who was fired from CBS in 2017 after multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Carroll discussed how relations between men and women had changed in recent decades. While she maintained that women had gained more freedom in recent years, she also insisted that women still liked to be “chased” and that they “need men.”
“The principle has changed, over the years,” Carroll said. “Just suddenly in the last 30 years. Because now we have the leisure and the time and the money … to love more than one man … Because before we had to be attached. He was our ticket. He supported us and he fought for us and he took care of our children. Now we have our own money and we can have maybe more than one man.”
In 1996, Carroll published “A Dog in Heat Is a Hot Dog and Other Rules to Live By,” a collection of pieces about gender and relationships from her advice column for Elle Magazine. Carroll began writing the column in 1993 and continued to do so until 2019, when her contract with Elle was suspended shortly after she came forward with rape allegations against Trump.
“The Most Hideous Men of My Life”
In June 2019, The Cut published an excerpt from Carroll’s forthcoming memoir. In the piece, titled “Hideous Men,” Carroll discussed a selection of “the 21 most revolting scoundrels I have ever met.” As the subhead of the piece said, “Donald Trump assaulted me in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago. But he’s not alone on the list of awful men in my life.”
Among the men on her list are Les Moonves, the former chief executive officer of CBS, and the former Fox News chief executive officer Roger Ailes. Both men were previously accused of multiple incidences of sexual misconduct and were forced to resign their positions in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Explaining why she didn’t come forward with these accusations, Carroll said, “I am a member of the Silent Generation. We do not flap our gums. We laugh it off and get on with life.”
Carroll’s rape accusation against Trump
On Carroll’s list of hideous men, Trump comes in at number 20. She outlines in explicit detail the alleged rape, which she says happened in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996.
In her recollection of Trump, who Carroll refers to as “Walking Phallus,” she says he was “good-looking,” noting “perhaps it is the dusky light but he looks prettier than ever.”
Carroll says she ran into Trump at the luxurious Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City and they struck up a conversation. She agreed to help him find a gift for “a girl” (he did not elaborate beyond that). At one point, as they shopped, she accompanied him to the dressing-room. That is where Carroll alleges the assault occurred.
Carroll says Trump lunged at her, pushing her against the wall and aggressively kissing her. From there, he proceeded to hold her against the wall and forcibly rape her. Carroll was able to fight back and push him off, escaping the dressing room.
Carroll says Trump was her last hideous man. “I have never had sex with anybody ever again.”
Why did Carroll wait so long?
In the memoir, Carroll accepts she will be questioned on why she waited over twenty years to speak up. She acknowledges she did not tell the police at the time but did tell two friends. One told her to go to the police. The other told her to say nothing because Trump had many lawyers and would “bury” her.
She also writes she knew the reception she would receive when coming forward with her allegation:
“Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun. Also, I am a coward.”
Carroll has come forward though and, as she expected, Trump has denied her accusations, “as he has denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by at least 15 credible women, namely, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Melinda McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, Juliet Huddy, Alva Johnson, and Cassandra Searles.”
Trump not only denied the accusations, he also claimed he had no idea who Carroll was and stated he had “never met this person.” He further said Carroll was not his “type” and she was “totally lying” to sell her memoir. It was on the basis of that statement that Carroll has filed her defamation lawsuit.
Carroll says she has never washed the dress she wore the day Trump allegedly raped her and is still in possession of it. In January, as part of her defamation lawsuit, she requested a DNA sample so it could be tested against the dress.
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