When the longtime advice columnist E. Jean Carroll alleged in a piece for New York Magazine last Friday that Donald Trump had sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s, she noted she confided in two friends at the time. Now for the first time, those two friends — Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin — have spoken publicly to corroborate Carroll’s story.
The Thursday edition of the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily featured a segment with the "Elle" columnist along with Birnbach and Martin describing how they’d become friends — all three were well-known in New York media circles — how they all knew Trump, and how they responded when Carroll, now 75, told them of the alleged assault in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996.
One told her to go to the police. The other told her not to tell anyone.
Birnbach, a writer known for the 1981 best-seller “The Official Preppy Handbook,” had once interviewed Trump at Mar-a-Lago; and Martin, a news anchor for WCBS-TV for some two decades, had met him and had a friend who briefly dated him.
Both told how Carroll had confided in them about the incident at the legendary department store Bergdorf’s, in which she ran into Trump at the entrance of the store and they wound up in an isolated dressing room where he pinned her and forcibly penetrated her before she fought her way out of the room.
The account marks one of the most serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump among some 20 women who've come forward with their own stories about him over the years. All of which he's denied.
On "The Daily," Carroll went through the minute-by-minute of the alleged attack to the best of her memory. She explained how, as a writer always looking for good material, she relished the opportunity to talk to Trump, then a fixture on the New York social scene. She described the excitement of Trump recognizing her as an advice writer and then asking her to help select a gift for a woman.
“Right up my alley,” she said. “I’m just thinking this is it.”
But when Carroll talked about Trump convincing her they should go look in the lingerie section, the story turned frightening. She described the scene in detail, down to the location of the counter, what type of clothes Trump selected and the word-by-word banter about a particular bodysuit. When Trump eventually gestured to the dressing room with clothing in hand, Carroll described thinking she was about to land a fabulous story.
“I’m actually laughing out loud, thinking, ‘I’m gonna make him put this bodysuit over his pants. That is the scheme,” Carroll said on the podcast. “And I’m thinking it’s going to be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
But Carroll alleged the second they got to the dressing room, Trump pushed her against the wall, and kissed her. She pushed back, she said, and Trump put his weight against her, pulling down her tights. Carroll said he inserted his penis briefly.
“It was not long,” she told the Times. “Let’s not put a time limit on it. I’m struggling. How long could it be? Couldn’t be long.”
Carroll said she escaped and immediately called Birnbach. Birnbach said she was with her kids, home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The women said Carroll, filled with adrenaline, initially tried to play the story off as funny.
“I remember her saying repeatedly, ‘He pulled down my tights,” Birnbach said on the podcast.
But when Carroll told her the full story, Birnbach told her it sounded like rape and she should go to the police, even offered to take her to the cops herself. But Carroll steadfastly declined.
Martin, meanwhile, told the Times that she advised Carroll to never speak of the attack. Carroll said she talked with Martin between one and three days after the alleged attack. Martin said Carroll was calm about the incident but no longer laughing about it. She advised her friend to be wary of Trump’s power, that he had lots of lawyers.
“I said: Don’t tell anybody. I wouldn’t tell anybody this,” she said, according to the Times.
The women didn’t speak about the alleged attack for years. But then Carroll realized she needed to reckon with it when she was just starting work on a book in the fall of 2017, and the MeToo movement exploded.
Like Trump has in nearly two dozen other cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the president denied the allegation from Carroll — with a familiar insult.
“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type,” the president said to The Hill in an Oval Office interview. “Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”
And several prominent Republicans have said they believe the president.
Speaking with The Daily, Carroll said she didn’t expect much of anything to come from her story — she’s learned at her age, she said, that little much seems to come of these accounts. But she said the story was hers to tell and that she refuses to use the word “rape.”
“Every woman gets to choose her word,” she told the Times. “Every woman gets to choose how she describes it. This is my way of saying it. This is my word. My word is fight. My word is not the victim word.”
“I have not been raped,” she said. “Something has not been done to me. I fought.”
Cover: E. Jean Carroll is photographed, Sunday, June 23, 2019, in New York. Carroll, a New York-based advice columnist, claims Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Trump denies knowing Carroll. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)