Trump accused of committing rape in 1990s
President Trump this week denied raping an advice columnist for Elle magazine in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store two decades ago, disparaging his accuser as “not my type”—a line he’s used against other accusers. In a New York magazine excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, E. Jean Carroll wrote that a chance encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman in late 1995 or early 1996 turned violent after he asked her to try on lingerie he was considering buying for a friend. “The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly,” Carroll wrote. She said Trump unzipped his pants and forced “his fingers around my private area” then in a three-minute struggle raped her before she fought him off and ran from the store. Trump is the last of 21 “hideous men” Carroll writes about in her book, What Do We Need Men For?
At least 16 women have now accused Trump of sexual misconduct—many after a 2005 tape emerged in October 2016 in which he discusses groping women. Trump has in all those cases denied any inappropriate behavior. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of Carroll’s accusation, “The president has denied it” and “that’s the end of it for me unless she shows something new.” Carroll said she did not tell police after the alleged assault but told “two close friends.” Both have confirmed her account. She said she did not come forward earlier because she feared being threatened and “dragged through the mud.”
What the columnists said
Republicans were more than pleased to score political points off former President Bill Clinton—and later, Hillary—by rallying to the cause of Juanita Broaddrick, who said the then governor of Arkansas raped her in 1978, said George Conway in The Washington Post. Donald Trump himself even called her “courageous” at a press conference he held in October 2016 with three other Clinton accusers. Now any Republicans who ignore a story “at least as compelling as Broaddrick’s—if not more so”—reveal themselves to be hypocrites.
But “why now?” asked Kaylee McGhee in the Washington Examiner. Let’s even assume, arguendo, that everything Carroll writes is true. Still, why launch this now just as Trump launches his re-election campaign? As they were in the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, accusations of sexual assault are weaponized for partisan advantage. “What began as a decent attempt to right the wrongs done to women has turned into a movement that cheapens survivors’ stories.”
There’s no political advantage at stake here, said Megan Garber in TheAtlantic.com, because for Trump, the consequences will be “almost inevitably: none at all.” The sheer number of women accusing Trump “give way to a numbness.” And now charges of rape make for little more than a weekend news cycle. “So many women come forward to add their voices to the chorus, only to find those voices stifled.”