The last line of advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s story of sexual assault hits like a ton of bricks. “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.”
I know E. Jean—not well, but we’ve messaged each other, and my mother is friendly with her. And since I have lived my entire life in Manhattan, she’s not the only Donald Trump accuser I know. There’s another woman mentioned in the list of Trump’s accusers, Cathy Heller, the mother of my best friend from high school; and then there are other stories I've heard, anecdotally of course, from people who didn’t want to come forward: a touched breast, an aggressive kiss on the mouth.
Friday, New York magazine published an excerpt from Carroll’s forthcoming memoir, What Do We Need Men For. It’s a memoir structured as a list of men who’ve attacked her, this list she calls “the most hideous men list.” The men on this list are largely known for such allegations: Les Moonves, Roger Ailes, and Trump.
Carroll also does a hideous men walking tour throughout Manhattan. The excerpt covers a few attacks from a few different men, but number 20 is the one we’ll be talking about all weekend and possibly next week too, because number 20 is the president of the United States. Yes, the longtime Elle advice columnist is alleging he, who once bragged that he could grab women by the genitals, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman’s dressing room.
The White House immediately responded: “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.” But when more than 20 women accuse a man of sexual assault, one has to start to suspect that perhaps not all of them are “trying to make the president look bad.” So, it’s hard to brush this off as a plot to bring down the president.
The problem isn’t that it’s unbelievable. The problem is that his base doesn’t care. Who could forget the photo of a female Trump supporter wearing the “Trump can grab my pussy” T-shirt? And it’s not like the president’s favorite television station will hold him accountable. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has continuously defended Trump no matter what the allegation.
And then there are the evangelicals who seem completely committed to Trumpism despite the cost or the evidence that the Almighty might not be besties with the thrice-married adulterer. During a Jan. 1 interview with the Washington Post, Trump supporter and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., answered the question, “Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?” with one word. The word was “no.”
Falwell made it very clear that there was nothing Trump could do that would alienate the evangelicals. It’s hard to imagine that one more allegation will move the needle with the evangelical community. And since two days ago a story surfaced about Jerry, a pool boy, and alleged photos of Falwell’s “wife in various stages of undress,” it’s hard to imagine Jerry taking this particular moment to disavow Trump.
In April, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki wrote: “The reality, it seems, is that most Americans are set in their opinion of Trump and aren't about to change their minds, no matter what happens.” But what about senators and congressmen from the party of “family values”? Surely, they’ll stand up to the head of their party. Surely, they’ll do what’s right. After all, who could forget the courageous Lindsey Graham, who tweeted in May 2016, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.” Well, Lindsey’s had a change of heart and now he’s all in for Trump, playing golf with him and defending him regularly. In fact, only one current Republican legislator has stood up to Trump, Michigan congressman Justin Amash.
Carroll has put her reputation, her life, and her livelihood on the line. The level of vitriol she will experience in the next few weeks will be positively horrific. She will be targeted by Fox News anchors, she will be hunted by the conservative media. She will be mocked and made fun of. She will go through what all of Trump’s other accusers have gone through and possibly worse. Random MAGA people will send her death threats, her character will be slandered, her Instagram will be riddled with the most unchristian language one can imagine.
I only wish that our politicians would be brave enough to stand up for her. I only wish that one member of the Republican Party would stand up for the women, but they won’t. Republicans will be worried about a mean tweet or a primary threat. Perhaps they will say they’re concerned, and maybe Susan Collins will make a distressed-looking expression on the way out of her office, but when the public outcry dies down, they will assume that the American people have forgotten and moved on.
But if the 2018 midterms have taught us anything, it’s that women remember. We may never see the president impeached and removed from office but we can remove him ourselves on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, when we women go to the polls and show Republican politicians that character does in fact matter and that we believe women.