President Donald Trump on Saturday responded to allegations of sexual assault after magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll alleged he had attacked her at a New York luxury department store in the late 1990s.
Carroll details the allegations in her forthcoming book, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” excerpts of which were published earlier Friday in New York Magazine. While Carroll does not appear to name Trump in the printed excerpt of the first-person account, he is named in the headline, which reads: “Hideous Men Donald Trump assaulted me in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago. But he’s not alone on the list of awful men in my life.”
Trump denied the allegations Saturday, telling reporters as he departed the White House for Camp David, “I have no idea who this woman is.”
“I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who’s also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation,” Trump said. “I think she was married, as I read. I have no idea who she is.”
Trump also claimed he “never met this person” in a statement on Friday. The article published Friday includes a photo of Trump and Carroll talking in a group. Trump addressed the photograph on Saturday, but reiterated that he does not know Carroll.
“There’s some picture where we’re shaking hands. It looks like at some kind of event. I have my coat on. I have my wife standing next to me. And I didn’t know (Carroll’s) husband, but he was a newscaster,” said Trump, who was married to Ivana Trump at the time. “But I have no idea who she is,” he continued.
Carroll claims that she encountered Trump in the fall of 1995 or spring 1996 at the Bergdorf Goodman department store, where she says he attacked her in one of the dressing rooms.
According to Carroll’s account, Trump sought her advice in buying a gift, and the two had met previously.
Carroll, who was 52 at the time, claims that while gift shopping, Trump pressured her to try on lingerie and grabbed her arm to pull her toward the dressing room.
“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,” Carroll alleges. “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.”
Carroll continues, “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.”
Carroll told CNN that when she talks about the incident, she does not refer to the alleged assault as rape.
“Sexual violence is a horrible thing. I don’t like to say it about myself because to me it feels like I’m disrespecting the women who are laid low every single day and have no power to escape the sexual violence in their lives,” Carroll said. “Yes, it was an attack. Yes, it was against my will. Yes, it hurt. But I just can’t put myself on the level of other women who are young, who have children, who are victims of sexual violence for most of their lives.”
Trump, in his denial Friday, accused Carroll of sharing her account to raise book sales, comparing her to women who “falsely accused” Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious confirmation hearings.
“Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda – like Julie Swetnick who falsely accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump said. “It’s just as bad for people to believe it, particularly when there is zero evidence. Worse still for a dying publication to try to prop itself up by peddling fake news – it’s an epidemic.”
Carroll responded to Trump’s claim that she is making up false allegations for publicity, telling CNN, “Of course he says that.”
She also told CNN she was surprised at the attention her book has received because of her encounter with Trump, saying “we thought there might be a ripple,” but that they didn’t expect this amount of attention.
“We didn’t put Trump on the cover of the book. It was just one guy in this book, that’s it,” Carroll said. “And now, look what happened.”
Trump also implied Friday that Democrats could be involved in Carroll’s “false accusations” but did not offer any details as to how.
“If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible,” Trump said in the statement. “The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.”
Carroll says in the New York Magazine excerpt published Friday that she did not report the alleged incident to the police, but confided in two close friends. The two friends confirmed their accounts to the magazine, and one of those friends, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to CNN and recalled Carroll describing the alleged attack soon after it occurred.
The department store confirmed to Carroll that it no longer has security footage from the time she claims the incident occurred.
Carroll has been an advice columnist for Elle magazine for 26 years. She posed for the New York magazine cover wearing a coatdress she claims she wore when she was attacked by Trump.
Carroll told CNN she was reluctant to share her story sooner because other women were already speaking out about Trump’s alleged inappropriate behavior in 2016.
“Other women were coming out and saying similar things,” she told CNN. “Fine, let them do it.”
“Also, I picked up very quickly that it was helping him, not hurting him,” she added.
The flood of accusations against Trump came during the 2016 campaign when a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video surfaced that showed him saying he was able to grab women “by the p**sy” because he was famous.
He apologized and dismissed his remarks on the “Access Hollywood” video as nothing more than “locker room” talk.
Trump also vehemently denied all of the womens’ allegations made against him, and less than three weeks before the election, he threatened to file a lawsuit against “all of these liars” once the election was over.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.