George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York.
“Thank you very much for coming. These four very courageous women have asked to be here and it was our honor to help them. And I think they’re each going to make just an individual, short statement. And then will do a little meeting, and we will see you at the debate.”
With those words, candidate Donald Trump kicked off a news conference just hours before the second presidential debate on Oct. 9, 2016. The brainchild of Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief, the gathering was an effort to blunt the impact of the now-notorious “Access Hollywood” tape, unearthed two days before, on which Trump had boasted of grabbing women by their genitals and doing “anything” to them that he liked.
Sitting with Trump were four women, three of whom claimed to have been subjected to Bill Clinton’s unwelcome sexual advances. One, in particular, was sitting just to Trump’s right.
Her name was Juanita Broaddrick. And she made an accusation of criminal sexual assault.
“Mr. Trump may have said some bad words,” she said, “but Bill Clinton raped me.”
The next night, at a campaign rally in Ambridge, Pa., Trump quoted Broaddrick as saying “Hillary Clinton threatened me after Bill Clinton raped me,” and called Bill Clinton “a predator,” “the worst abuser of women ever to sit in the Oval Office.”
Broaddrick had told her story nearly two decades earlier, first to the media, and then later in a book. She had recounted how, in 1978, Clinton asked her up to his hotel room. How he allegedly forced himself upon her. How she tried to pull away. How he allegedly bit her lip, then later told her to put ice on it. How she sobbed. How she told some of her friends. How she didn’t tell the police. Clinton denied her accusations.
Republicans and conservatives rallied to her cause then, and they did so once again in 2016. Democrats and liberals, not so much — although in the wake of the #MeToo movement, some have since acknowledged the credibility of Broaddrick’s claim.
But today there’s another woman with a similar allegation, against a different powerful man. Her name is E. Jean Carroll.
She, too, says that she was raped — by Donald Trump.
She, too, tells a story about how she was alone with a man. How in 1995 or 1996 that man, Trump, allegedly forced himself upon her. How she tried to fight back. How she tried to push him away and tried to stomp on his foot. How he penetrated her. How she ran out the door. How she told friends. How she didn’t tell the police. Trump also denied the accusations, calling them “fake news” and adding, “She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”
But Trump called Broaddrick “courageous,” and if Broaddrick was courageous, then certainly Carroll is as well. For Carroll’s story is at least as compelling as Broaddrick’s — if not more so.
And that is because Carroll’s claim, for a number of reasons, actually rests upon a significantly stronger foundation than Broaddrick’s.
For one thing, before she went public with her story, Broaddrick had repeatedly denied that Clinton had assaulted her, even under oath: In an affidavit she had submitted in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case against Clinton, Broaddrick had sworn that the allegations “that Mr. Clinton had made unwelcome sexual advances toward me in the late seventies … are untrue,” that the press had previously sought “corroboration of these tales,” but that she had “repeatedly denied the allegations.” (Disclosure: I provided behind-the-scenes pro bono legal assistance to Jones’s lawyers.)
For another, Carroll’s account is supported by the sheer number of claims that have now surfaced against Trump — claims in which women have accused Trump of engaging in unwelcome or forcible sexual conduct or assault against them. These claims — all denied by the president — far outnumber the publicized sexual misconduct incidents that involved Clinton, which mostly concerned rumors or allegations of consensual affairs.
And as if to bring things full circle, Carroll’s account is also of course supported by Trump’s depraved remarks on the “Access Hollywood” video, of which there was simply no equivalent in Broaddrick’s case. Whatever else he may have done, Clinton never made a video like that. What Trump described on the video is exactly what Carroll says he did to her.
Finally, no controversy involving Trump would be complete without at least one utterly brazen, easily disprovable Trumpian lie. In his statement denying the rape allegation, he added the claim that “I’ve never met this person in my life.”
If Trump had even bothered to glance at Carroll’s published account, he would have seen a photograph of himself and his then-wife, Ivana, from 1987 ― in which he was amiably chatting with Carroll and her then-husband. By making the absurd and mendacious assertion that he never even met Carroll, Trump utterly annihilates the credibility of his claim that he didn’t assault her.
Republicans or conservatives who promoted Broaddrick’s charges would be hypocritical if they fail to champion Carroll and condemn Trump.