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Jun 26 2019

#MeToo: Another Victim Comes Forward

Up until now there have been 22 women accusing the admitted sexual predator, who sits in the Oval Office, of sexual assault. Last week another woman came forward, only this time she is accusing him of rape. Journalist and former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll gave her account of the assault in an article from her upcoming book published in New York Magazine. In her piece, as recounted some of the “hideous men” she has encountered in her life, she reveals the details of the assault by the con-man real estate magnate in a dressing room of a swank 5th Avenue department store:

Which brings me to the other rich boy. Before I discuss him, I must mention that there are two great handicaps to telling you what happened to me in Bergdorf’s: (a) The man I will be talking about denies it, 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. (Here’s what the White House said: “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”) And (b) I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.

His admirers can’t get enough of hearing that he’s rich enough, lusty enough, and powerful enough to be sued by and to pay off every splashy porn star or Playboy Playmate who “comes forward,” so I can’t imagine how ecstatic the poor saps will be to hear their favorite Walking Phallus got it on with an old lady in the world’s most prestigious department store.

This is during the years I am doing a daily Ask E. Jean TV show for the cable station America’s Talking, a precursor to MSNBC launched by Roger Ailes (who, by the way, is No. 16 on my list).

Early one evening, as I am about to go out Bergdorf’s revolving door on 58th Street, and one of New York’s most famous men comes in the revolving door, or it could have been a regular door at that time, I can’t recall, and he says: “Hey, you’re that advice lady!”

And I say to No. 20 on the Most Hideous Men of My Life List: “Hey, you’re that real-estate tycoon!”

I am surprised at how good-looking he is. We’ve met once before, and perhaps it is the dusky light but he looks prettier than ever. This has to be in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996 because he’s garbed in a faultless topcoat and I’m wearing my black wool Donna Karan coatdress and high heels but not a coat.

“Come advise me,” says the man. “I gotta buy a present.”

“Oh!” I say, charmed. “For whom?”

“A girl,” he says.

“Don’t the assistants of your secretaries buy things like that?” I say.

“Not this one,” he says. Or perhaps he says, “Not this time.” I can’t recall. He is a big talker, and from the instant we collide, he yammers about himself like he’s Alexander the Great ready to loot Babylon.

As we are standing just inside the door, I point to the handbags. “How about—”

“No!” he says, making the face where he pulls up both lips like he’s balancing a spoon under his nose, and begins talking about how he once thought about buying Bergdorf ’s.

“Or … a hat!” I say enthusiastically, walking toward the handbags, which, at the period I’m telling you about — and Bergdorf’s has been redone two or three times since then — are mixed in with, and displayed next to, the hats. “She’ll love a hat! You can’t go wrong with a hat!”

I don’t remember what he says, but he comes striding along — greeting a Bergdorf sales attendant like he owns the joint and permitting a shopper to gape in awe at him — and goes right for a fur number.

“Please,” I say. “No woman would wear a dead animal on her head!”

What he replies I don’t recall, but I remember he coddles the fur hat like it’s a baby otter.

“How old is the lady in question?” I ask.

“How old are you?” replies the man, fondling the hat and looking at me like Louis Leakey carbon-dating a thighbone he’s found in Olduvai Gorge.

“I’m 52,” I tell him.

“You’re so old!” he says, laughing — he was around 50 himself — and it’s at about this point that he drops the hat, looks in the direction of the escalator, and says, “Lingerie!” Or he may have said “Underwear!” So we stroll to the escalator. I don’t remember anybody else greeting him or galloping up to talk to him, which indicates how very few people are in the store at the time.

I have no recollection where lingerie is in that era of Bergdorf’s, but it seems to me it is on a floor with the evening gowns and bathing suits, and when the man and I arrive — and my memory now is vivid — no one is present.

There are two or three dainty boxes and a lacy see-through bodysuit of lilac gray on the counter. The man snatches the bodysuit up and says: “Go try this on!”

You try it on,” I say, laughing. “It’s your color.”

“Try it on, come on,” he says, throwing it at me.

“It goes with your eyes,” I say, laughing and throwing it back.

“You’re in good shape,” he says, holding the filmy thing up against me. “I wanna see how this looks.”

“But it’s your size,” I say, laughing and trying to slap him back with one of the boxes on the counter.

“Come on,” he says, taking my arm. “Let’s put this on.”

This is gonna be hilarious, I’m saying to myself — and as I write this, I am staggered by my stupidity. As we head to the dressing rooms, I’m laughing aloud and saying in my mind: I’m gonna make him put this thing on over his pants!   [..]

The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.

I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.

The whole episode lasts no more than three minutes. I do not believe he ejaculates. I don’t remember if any person or attendant is now in the lingerie department. I don’t remember if I run for the elevator or if I take the slow ride down on the escalator. As soon as I land on the main floor, I run through the store and out the door — I don’t recall which door — and find myself outside on Fifth Avenue.

And that was my last hideous man. The Donna Karan coatdress still hangs on the back of my closet door, unworn and unlaundered since that evening. And whether it’s my age, the fact that I haven’t met anyone fascinating enough over the past couple of decades to feel “the sap rising,” as Tom Wolfe put it, or if it’s the blot of the real-estate tycoon, I can’t say. But I have never had sex with anybody ever again.

So why, until know, hasn’t Ms. Carroll come forward? Why didn’t she report it to the police? She recounts telling her friends, who advise her to report the rape, and thinks about what possible proof she would have. But the bottom line is this:

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.

As Dahlia Lithwick, in Slate remarks, that instead of litigating whether s Carroll’s story will count, we should marvel that she told it at all. Now her story is mostly being ignores and dismissed.

It is now almost universally agreed upon: The media screwed up the E. Jean Carroll story. Over the weekend, most of the major newspapers ignored Carroll’s account alleging that Donald Trump raped her in the 1990s. The major Sunday shows never touched it. The New York Times treated it as a literary event before Dean Baquet acknowledged, on Monday, that the Times had “mishandled” it, ostensibly because some other paper broke the story. In acknowledging that an accusation of rape against the president of the United States didn’t get the coverage it warranted, the Columbia Journalism Review suggested the reason for this was the public’s “fatigue” with Trump’s sexual assault stories: “We are hit so often with claims of Trump’s misconduct—and liberals, at least, have such low expectations of him—that horrifying allegations lose their shock value and slide off.” In USA Today, Melinda Hennenberger suggests that we’re bored with all three—Trump scandals, rape scandals, and Trump rape scandals: “Maybe if he had been accused of swiping a sweater from Bergdorf’s, that would be new and different?” In some instances, the story was simply suppressed—on Friday, the Murdoch-owned New York Post did run a story about Carroll’s allegations but then took it down, evidently at the instruction of a former editor.

I understand why so many people think the media’s failure here is the result of boredom. One reality of the Trump era is how profoundly boring it is—we watch the same dramas unfold, again and again; we debunk the same lies, again and again; and we issue the same warnings, again and again. But I don’t think that what happened here is the result of boredom so much as an almost perfect journalistic incapacity for telling any story it hasn’t told a thousand times before. Maybe we’re not bored. Maybe we’re just boring. [..]

Well, she sure told us so—on Monday night, after previous denials, the president helpfully explained that he couldn’t have raped Carroll because she was “not my type.” It’s also not clear Carroll was wrong to invent a new form for the post-#MeToo era. Because what we have built post-Kavanaugh is not tenable. If you doubted that for a minute, consider the president aligning himself with Kavanaugh this weekend as men falsely accused, then painting women who make such accusations as motivated by money or fame or publicity. See again, Carroll’s explanation of why she didn’t come forward sooner. See, also, Lindsey Graham and other alleged political “leaders” claiming that based on nothing other than his truthfulness in general, they believe Trump’s denial.

No wonder Carroll opted to take a different approach. Having watched as over a dozen other women came forward with claims against the president that were batted away, and having watched as even more women came forward against Trump armed with a bank of microphones and an attorney, or six, and been batted away, she created a new story. Having watched a woman testify for hours about trauma she had never wanted to share, only to be told that something bad probably did happen, but she must be mistaken about her attacker, E. Jean Carroll made the decision to do it differently.

Ms. Carroll’s story is not just about her, or the sexual predator in the Oval Office, it is about the male dominated media and justice system that excuse the perpetrator and dismiss the victim. It is also about the millions of Americans, men and women, who voted for this hideous excuse for a human being after he admitted to sexual assault because he was white, male, famous and wealthy and could get away with it. We should blame them more than we blame anyone else.