A 75-year-old woman came forward a few days ago to claim that President Trump raped her in a department-store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
Big news, right? Nope. America yawned. And so, weirdly, did America’s media.
Although the horrific accusation from E. Jean Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for a women’s fashion magazine, came out Friday, not one of the main TV networks — NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox — talked about the accusation on their Sunday political talk shows. Back when Mr. Trump was running for president, the networks couldn’t get enough of the salacious sex stories that appeared about him every few weeks, including Bridget Sullivan, the former Miss New Hampshire who said he once hugged her “a little low” on her back.
So why the collective media silence when Ms. Carroll made her alarming accusation? No one knows for sure, but here are a few thoughts on why the story crashed and burned before it ever got off the ground.
First, Ms. Carroll is, in a word, odd. When CNN on Monday decided to interview her for its “New Day” morning show (no doubt realizing by then that it was missing an easy “bash Trump” story), she retold the tale she first alleged in New York magazine. Throughout the retelling of what she said was a somewhat violent rape, she laughed and smiled.
She said she met Mr. Trump at a Bergdorf Goodman store in New York about 23 years ago and that he recognized her as the Elle advice columnist. Mr. Trump asked her to help him pick out something for a “mystery” girl, she said, adding that he shouted, “lingerie!” Mr. Trump, she said, found a “see-through body suit” and told her to go put it on. Ms. Carroll, who said she was “spinning a comedy scene in my head,” said maybe he should try it on.
Ms. Carroll followed Mr. Trump into a dressing room and “the minute he closed that door I was banged up against a wall.” Then, “he just went at it,” she said: “It was against my will, 100%.”
“Legally, it was rape,” CNN host Alisyn Camerota said helpfully, before replaying a tape in which Mr. Trump said you can grab women “by the p——.” Asked about her reaction to that tape, Ms. Carroll said, “I felt relief. And, I — that’s right. That’s right.”
Second, Ms. Carroll said she’s “barely political.” But The Washington Post noted that Ms. Carroll is a registered Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“She donated $1,000 this cycle to Emily’s List, which supports female candidates who back abortion rights, and $500 to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, according to campaign finance records. On Twitter, she has posted several sharp remarks about Trump and retweets of satirical and critical articles about him,” the Post wrote.
In her CNN interview, she said, “I can’t believe that he is in the White House, and it makes me sick.”
Third, the shocking accusation appeared just days before Ms. Carroll’s latest book — “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal” — hits bookstores. Mr. Trump pointed that out in his statement about the allegation, saying he’s “never met this person in my life.”
“She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section,” Mr. Trump said. “There is zero evidence. No pictures? No surveillance? No video? No reports? No sales attendants around? I would like to thank Bergdorf Goodman for confirming they have no video footage of any such incident, because it never happened.”
Of course, this has happened to Mr. Trump before, most notably with two books by author Michael Wolff — “Fire and Fury” and “Siege: Trump under Fire” — both “insider” tales that were widely discredited. Mr. Wolff wrote that Mr. Trump was having an affair with Nikki Haley, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, prompting a New York Times writer to say Mr. Wolff was spreading “evidence-free detail.”
Fourth, Ms. Carroll said that while she still has the very dress she was wearing that fateful day, she won’t allow the New York Police Department to test it for DNA, a la Monica Lewinsky. “I do not know if the president ejaculated. I have no idea,” Ms. Carroll said. Well, a DNA test would determine that.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, running for the Democratic nomination in 2020, said if she brought a criminal case, the city would pursue it. Again, she said no.
Last, there was this very odd exchange when Ms. Carroll appeared on “Anderson Cooper 360.” Rape, Mr. Cooper said, is a violent assault. Ms. Carroll replied, “I think most people think of rape as being sexy.”
“Let’s take a quick break,” Mr. Cooper said abruptly.
“They think of the fantasies,” Ms. Carroll continued.
“Hmm. We’re, er,” Mr. Cooper stammered, “gonna, uh, take a sh — quick break, we’re, if you can stick around we’ll talk more on the other side.”
“You’re fascinating to talk to,” Ms. Carroll said.
Mr. Cooper, who had just solemnly declared that Ms. Carroll was violently raped, laughed.
End of story.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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