President Trump said Monday that writer E. Jean Carroll was “totally lying” when she recently accused him of raping her during an encounter in a New York department store in the mid-1990s…
“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” the president said while seated behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“You weren’t hot enough to rape” is an … unorthodox way to deny an allegation of sexual assault compared to, say, “How dare you accuse me of such a monstrous thing.” It’s a non sequitur too, notes Elizabeth Nolan Brown: “[I]t goes against everything we can readily observe about sexual assault. In reality, rape victims come in all shapes, sizes, and types; and many rapists make decisions based on opportunity, perceived vulnerability, and all sorts of criteria unrelated to normative desirability.”
His accuser, E. Jean Carroll, made a similar point last night on CNN, albeit also in an unorthodox way:
Anderson Cooper went straight to commercial right after this comment. pic.twitter.com/hkM7KCYw71
— Cameron Cawthorne (@Cam_Cawthorne) June 25, 2019
Righties on Twitter were understandably aghast at that clip, as most people don’t think of rape as “sexy.” But a lot of people do seem to conceive of it as a derivative of sex, originating with a lustful impulse that refuses to be thwarted and turns traumatic. Carroll’s point, I thought, was that the encounter with Trump was nothing like that. It was force from the word go, not some exciting erotic incident that “turned bad” or whatever. It came from a different place than where sexual impulses come from. Ironically, as Brown says, Trump’s comment about her not being his type seems to prove her point. He’s framing rape as a derivative of sex too by making it about her physical appeal. And he’s not alone in placing rape on the spectrum of sex: Even some women fantasize about it, as Carroll alludes.
She hasn’t done herself any favors with her media tour, though. It was weird a few days ago when she said it would have been “disrespectful” to women at the border for her to have brought charges against Trump. Uh, what? Then, yesterday, she told CNN she didn’t expect the incident with Trump recounted in her new book to get so much attention. A rape accusation against a sitting president? Which Carroll happily hyped by appearing on the cover of New York magazine?
Philip Klein noticed those comments too and is as baffled as I am:
A string of outlandish television interviews are eroding the credibility of E. Jean Carroll, who has claimed that President Trump sexually assaulted her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s…
The number of accusations that have accumulated against Trump, the ease which with he generally lies, and his pasts boasts about groping women all may be reasons to discount his denials. But they also don’t mean that he’s guilty of this particular crime, either.
So for the time being, unless or until we hear from her friends [in whom she confided about Trump], all we have to go on is Carroll herself. Being a bit of an eccentric in television interviews, of course, does not mean that she made up the story. But it certainly raises more questions about her reliability as a narrator as we try to evaluate her serious accusation as fairly as possible given the passage of time.
Apart from cable news, the media hasn’t paid her much attention. Neither has the Democratic presidential field, which seems to have concluded from the results in 2016 that there just aren’t minds to be changed on this subject. But some critics are still trying. WaPo continues to update its article from 2017 summarizing the various allegations against him, with accusers organized into groups according to how many contemporaneous corroborators each has for her claim about Trump. Five women have at least two people in whom they confided at the time; several others have one. The “Everyone’s Lying” exhibit is going to make for an amazing wing of the Trump Presidential Library.