Can we all agree that sexual abuse has nothing do with politics or partisanship, and everything to do with male privilege, sexism, a historical discounting of women’s lives and the failure of our justice system — until recently — to take rape very seriously at all?
And can we also finally agree — whatever our political persuasion — that we don’t want rapists or sexual harassers/assaulters/abusers as our president, our senator, our congressman or our Supreme Court justice?
Last week, the writer and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll became at least the 22nd woman to accuse President Trump of rape or sexual assault. None of these women is hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. Each is on the record with her name and detailed story. Some have filed lawsuits against Trump. Their number is becoming positively Cosby-esque.
So how about we give credible women like these the benefit of the doubt?
Carroll’s account of being raped by Trump in a department store dressing room is offered in her forthcoming book of essays, “What do We Need Men For: A Modest Proposal.” The chapter in which she discusses Trump’s alleged assault, “The Most Hideous Men of My Life,” was excerpted in a New York magazine cover story. On the list are “the 21 most revolting scoundrels I have ever met,” writes Carroll, 75, a former beauty queen and cheerleader who has had a lot of awful experiences with men. Trump is No. 20 on her list.
The magazine’s cover shows a photo of Carroll looking very buttoned up in a black Donna Karan coat dress, opaque black hose and black pumps, her arms crossed, next to these cover lines: “This is what I was wearing 23 years ago when Donald Trump attacked me in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room.” At the time, she was 52.
The president, as he has done with each accusation of assault, denied that the incident took place. He said he’d never met Carroll. That she made the whole thing up to sell books.
Listen, you can love Trump, his policies, his bombast, his judicial nominations.
But you cannot ignore that he lies constantly and easily, and that he has not just been accused of sexually assaulting women, but boasted of actually assaulting them. “When you’re a star …you can do anything,” he told Billy Bush in the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. “Grab ’em by the pussy.”
This is who he is.
Trump says he never met Carroll. But New York magazine ran a photo of a smiling Carroll talking to Trump at what looks like a social event around 1987, years before the alleged rape. They were both high-profile New Yorkers. She had an advice show on the cable station “America’s Talking,” a precursor to MSNBC. He was a self-promoting real estate developer, becoming a tabloid fixture. It makes total sense that they knew each other. But he’s still claiming never to have met her when a photo clearly shows him talking to her.
Come on now. Who are you going to believe: Trump, or your lying eyes?
And when Trump says Carroll is trying to sell books, all I can tell you is no one has to actually buy the book to read Carroll’s horrific story.
The excerpt is available for free online.
Carroll’s rape account brings us inevitably to Juanita Broaddrick, the former nursing home administrator, who claims that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978.
Like Carroll, she told friends of her assault after it happened. Unlike Carroll, she swore under oath that Clinton had not assaulted her, then recanted and said he did, which muddied the waters for her.
In 2016, Broaddrick allowed herself to be used as a political pawn by Trump in his quest for the presidency. Trump trotted her out — first at a news conference, then at a debate with Hillary Clinton — presumably to throw the Democratic presidential contender off her stride. (At Broaddrick’s side both times: Paula Jones, who settled a sexual harassment claim against Bill Clinton for $850,000.)
Why would either woman allow herself to be used so cynically by Trump, who is hardly a champion of women, who paid off a porn star and a Playmate to keep his extramarital affairs quiet, who had been accused by women of sexual assault and whose “Access Hollywood” tape had already been released?
As Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, pointed out over the weekend in the Washington Post, Carroll is a far more credible accuser than Broaddrick.
“Republicans or conservatives who promoted Broaddrick’s charges,” wrote George Conway, “would be hypocritical if they fail to champion Carroll and condemn Trump.”
Indeed. Why haven’t the same “family values” conservatives who rallied to Broaddrick’s defense — folks like Sean Hannity — come forward to defend Carroll?
Broaddrick’s reaction is disappointing to say the least. I cannot find a single word of support from her for Carroll, the purported fellow victim of a future president. Instead, Broaddrick has gone on the attack.
“George Conway is a Sleazy Loudmouth wanting to use my name and credible account of my rape by Bill Clinton to promote his agenda,” she posted on her Twitter page, which features a banner photograph of her news conference with Trump. “How disgusting.”
The lack of self-awareness by Broaddrick, who allowed Trump to use her name and “credible account of rape by Bill Clinton” to promote his agenda, is sad, but probably not surprising.
Too many partisans treat women as credible victims only when men from the other party rape and assault them. But sexual assault is not a partisan crime. These are transgressions of power and privilege.
If you believe Broaddrick, you must believe Carroll.
In next week's cover story, E. Jean Carroll shares for the first time her violent encounter with Donald Trump. The coatdress she was wearing that day has hung in her closet ever since; she wore it again for the first time for her portrait with New York https://t.co/yPaLsRoVcH pic.twitter.com/Tx2HAzt1mi— New York Magazine (@NYMag) June 21, 2019