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Columnist Who Accused Trump Of Sexual Assault, Defamation Files Suit In New York

E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who says President Trump sexually assaulted her more than two decades ago in a New York City department store, is suing the president for defamation.

A lawsuit filed Monday in New York Supreme Court accuses Trump of making a "series of false and defamatory statements" by denying the incident, saying he had never met Carroll and suggesting that her accusation was politically and financially motivated.

"Trump knew these statements were false; at a bare minimum, he acted with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity. Trump had recognized Carroll on sight at Bergdorf Goodman," the complaint states, referring to the store where Carroll says the attack took place in a dressing room sometime between the fall of 1995 and spring 1996.

"He knew who she was when he raped her, and he knew who she was in 2019," it adds. "After he lied about attacking her, he surrounded that central lie with a swarm of related lies in an effort to explain why she would invent an accusation of rape. To do so, he smeared her integrity, honesty and dignity — all in the national press."

Carroll, a longtime columnist for Elle magazine, says she bumped into Trump at the doorway of Bergdorf Goodman, where he stopped her and persuaded her on the spot to take him shopping. It was during this visit that, according to Carroll, Trump pinned her to the wall of a dressing room and sexually assaulted her.

Two women later publicly corroborated Carroll's account.

"It was a very short incident," Carroll told NPR in June, adding: "To me, it's just disrespectful to say, to use the word rape, although it hurt and it was against my will."

Trump flatly denied Carroll's rape allegation not long after it was published, telling The Hill in an Oval Office interview that she was "totally lying": "I know nothing about her," he said in June. "She is — it's just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that."

After the lawsuit was filed, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also took aim at the defamation suit, specifically.

"Let me get this straight — Ms. Carroll is suing the President for defending himself against false allegations?" Grisham said in a statement to NPR. And she referred to Carroll's recent book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, which detailed the accusation.

"I guess since the book did not make any money she's trying to get paid another way," Grisham said. "The story she used to try and sell her trash book never happened, period. Her version of events is not even feasible if you've ever tried on clothing in a dressing room of a crowded department store. The lawsuit is frivolous and the story is a fraud — just like the author."

Carroll's accusation is just one of a number of allegations of sexual misconduct that have been lodged against Trump — ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual assault. Indeed, Carroll's defamation lawsuit is not the first to be filed against him either: Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's TV show The Apprentice, filed her own suit in 2017.

Earlier this year, a New York appeals court allowed Zervos' case to go forward over the objections of Trump's legal team, which had argued that he is immune from state lawsuits while in office.

After filing her lawsuit Monday, Carroll positioned herself as a representative of a whole host of women who have survived sexual assault and been afraid to speak up.

"Decades ago, the now President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak out about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying for personal gain, even insulted my appearance. No woman should have to face this. But this lawsuit is not only about me," Carroll said in a statement emailed to NPR.

"I am filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled. It's for every woman who can't speak up because she'll lose the job she needs to support her three kids. No person in this country should be above the law — including the President."

Her lawsuit requests that Trump be ordered to retract his "defamatory statements" against her and pay damages, the amount of which would be determined at trial.
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.