I’m really trying to keep an open mind about E. Jean Carroll’s accusation against Donald Trump, without assuming anything one way or another. I’m taking it seriously, but not uncritically. I’m not dismissing Carroll outright, but I also can’t ignore that since she made her shocking claim a week ago, every TV appearance she’s done has been very, very weird. It’s possible that she’s telling the truth, but so far I haven’t seen any real proof she is. And just because she’s odd and eccentric, that doesn’t mean she’s lying. If refusing to jump to conclusions means that I’m angering both Trumpkins and #Resistance freaks, so be it.
Carroll says she told two of her friends about the alleged attack at the time, back in 1996. They’ve been unnamed until now, but they just stepped forward and spoke on the record.
Two women in whom E. Jean Carroll confided about having allegedly been sexually attacked by Donald Trump in the 1990s spoke publicly about it for the first time in an interview excerpted on the New York Times podcast “The Daily,” describing the conflicting advice they gave their friend at the time.
On Wednesday, Megan Twohey, a Times reporter, interviewed Ms. Carroll and the two women, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, who had not been publicly identified until now.
You can listen to the podcast here. Birnbach, a former news anchor, says she told Carroll to call the police about the alleged assault. Twohey, a writer, says she told Carroll not to tell anybody.
Now that these women have gone on the record, that changes things. They’re putting themselves on the line for this. Now half the country is going to scream at them and call them liars. Their whole lives are going to get picked apart. They have something at stake now. I can’t dismiss that.
And yet once again, E. Jean Carroll can’t get out of her own way. I simply don’t know what to make of this:
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 27, 2019
“Every woman gets to choose her word. 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. Something has not been done to me. I fought.”
Okay, either it was rape or it wasn’t. I understand Carroll’s point that she doesn’t want to think of herself as a victim. But are we supposed to accept that she’s not claiming she was raped because she says she wasn’t, or are we supposed to assume she’s claiming she was raped anyway? Are we supposed to #BelieveWomen or not?
Here’s yet another bizarre twist. Trump’s defenders are now pointing to a 2012 episode of Law & Order: SVU that depicted a similar scenario:
No way! Trump’s clearly unhinged accuser claims he raped her in a Manhattan Bergdoff dressing room…..it’s literally the plot line to an old “Law and Order” episode. 🤦🏼♀️ pic.twitter.com/4J0eajQpIv
— Mindy Robinson 🇺🇸 (@iheartmindy) June 26, 2019
When I first saw that, I thought maybe Carroll got her real life mixed up with an old TV show she saw once. That can happen with older people, and Carroll’s grasp of reality seems tenuous in the first place. But if Twohey and Birnbach are telling the truth, and Carroll claimed she was attacked 15 years before that episode aired, then this is just a coincidence. Unless you want to throw time travel into it.
I don’t think E. Jean Carroll is a reliable narrator. But either she made this claim to those two women 23 years ago, or she didn’t. If she did, why? And why wait to go public with it until now? If she didn’t, why are they saying she did?
Look, this whole thing is strange and I don’t know what to believe. This latest news is giving me pause and making me reexamine my preconceptions, which is of course the worst thing you can do in 2019.
When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, Dear Reader?