WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two women have backed up writer E. Jean Carroll’s account of an alleged sexual attack by President Donald Trump more than 20 years ago, both saying in an interview published on Thursday that she had told them about it at the time.
Speaking to the New York Times, they said Carroll told them Trump had overpowered her in a Bergdorf Goodman New York department store dressing room in late 1995 or early 1996 and penetrated her in an encounter lasting several minutes.
The women, author Lisa Birnbach and former news anchor Carol Martin, said they had given conflicting advice following the attack on Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, on whether she should report the assault.
Trump has denied the accusation, saying the encounter never happened.
Similar accusations have emerged in the past two years against a number of powerful men in Hollywood, the media and politics as the women’s #MeToo movement has gained traction and shined a light on sexual harassment and violence.
More than a dozen women have accused Trump, 73, of making unwanted sexual advances in the years before he entered politics. Trump denied those accusations and went on to win his 2016 White House bid.
Carroll’s accusation was published on Friday in a New York magazine article adapted from her new memoir. She said she did not report Trump, a wealthy real estate developer, to authorities in the 1990s because she feared retribution.
She wrote that Trump pushed her against a wall and pressed his mouth on hers before seizing her arms, pushing her against the wall a second time and penetrating her. A “colossal struggle” ensued before she could escape, Carroll, 75, wrote.
Birnbach told the Times that what Carroll described to her at the time sounded like rape and urged her friend to go to the police. Martin instead advised Carroll not to tell anyone.
Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their account to the Times.
Carroll told the Times she did not consider coming forward before the November 2016 election as other women did because she believed such accusations would boost his candidacy.
Trump has accused Carroll of lying and seeking to sell more copies of her book.
“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” he told the Hill newspaper on Monday.
With attention shifting to the November 2020 election, few U.S. lawmakers appeared willing this week to take on the latest allegation, with several Democratic senators saying they saw little impact. Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans called such behavior unacceptable and said the accusation should be evaluated, while others accepted Trump’s denial.
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Howard Goller)