E. Jean Carroll, the writer seeking millions of dollars from Donald Trump for defamation, on Thursday forcefully rejected suggestions that her reputation has been enhanced in the years since she publicly accused the former US president of rape.
Carroll, 80, acknowledged at her civil damages trial that she has received more attention from media outlets and celebrities since publicising her rape claim in June 2019 – but said she has also been widely disparaged.
“My status is lowered,” Carroll said under cross-examination by Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba in federal court in Manhattan. “I am partaking in this trial to bring my old reputation and status back.”
Carroll is seeking at least $10 million over two statements that Trump made as president in June 2019, after the rape claim was first publicised in a memoir excerpt in New York Magazine.
Trump, 77, has denied having assaulted Carroll in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan. He said she made up the claim to promote her book.
Carroll won a $5 million verdict last May when another jury found that Trump had sexually abused her and, in October 2022 defamed her by denying that anything happened.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan has already ruled that Trump sexually abused Carroll by forcing his fingers into her vagina, and that he defamed her in June 2019.
The nine-person jury need to decide only how much Trump should pay Carroll. Kaplan has admonished Trump’s lawyers dozens of times since the trial began on Tuesday for raising issues that he’d already decided or considered irrelevant.
A damages expert told jurors on Carroll’s behalf it would cost $7.3 million to $12.1 million to repair damage that Trump’s denials did to Carroll’s reputation.
Trump, a Republican, has used the trial and his other legal travails to rally supporters and raise funds for his 2024 White House run, calling the cases part of a political plot.
He has separately pleaded not guilty in four state and federal criminal cases, including two alleging that he broke the law in trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
MORE WELL-KNOWN, AND MORE HATED
In Thursday’s proceedings, Habba told jurors that Carroll had been attacked on Twitter, now known as X, for five hours before the White House denied her claim, including that Carroll was a “disgrace” and was promoting “fake news” to ruin Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
Habba was trying to show that Trump’s denials did not shatter Carroll’s reputation, as the writer had testified on Wednesday, and that Carroll has leveraged her claim into newfound fame as an advocate for women.
Carroll agreed that the $5 million verdict drew praise from celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, Bette Midler, Alyssa Milano, Rob Reiner and Mira Sorvino, but said she has also drawn a “wave of slime” from detractors.
“I am more well-known, and I am hated by a lot more people,” Carroll said.
The damages expert, Ashlee Humphreys, opens new tab, a Northwestern University professor specialising in sociology and consumer behaviour, estimated that at least 21.3 million to 24.8 million people saw Trump’s June 2019 statements in major media or on Twitter and likely believed them.
She said that caused “severe” damage to Carroll’s standing as “a truth teller, a sassy advice columnist,” and made many people view her as a liar with a political agenda. Carroll is a Democrat.
One of Trump’s lawyers highlighted on cross-examination that Humphreys’ damages model said the harm to Carroll might be as little as $2.1 million. Humphreys viewed that amount as too low.
Trump attended the first two trial days, but was in Florida on Thursday for his mother-in-law’s funeral.
In overnight posts on his Truth Social website, Trump attacked some of Carroll’s earlier testimony, and said if the judge “does the right and Patriotic thing, he will immediately dismiss the current Election Interfering Witch Hunt Trial.”
The trial resumes on Monday, and Trump could testify next week.
Kaplan warned him on Wednesday that he might be ejected from the trial if he kept making comments loud enough for the jury to hear. Carroll’s lawyers said they could hear Trump calling their client’s case a “witch hunt” and a “con job.”