On Friday, E. Jean Carroll, the journalist and advice columnist, published a new piece of writing: an excerpt from her forthcoming book, What Do We Need Men For? Posted on The Cut, the essay is a meditation on the sexual abuses that have accumulated, like plaque in the artery, over the course of her life; it contains allegations that several culturally prominent men have assaulted her. One of those men is the current president of the United States. In the mid-1990s, Carroll writes, she had a chance encounter with Donald Trump, then known primarily as a real-estate developer, at Bergdorf Goodman; he asked her to help him pick out a gift for, he told her, another woman. The encounter began as a friendly one between two New York City celebrities; it ended, Carroll writes, with Trump cornering her in a dressing room and raping her.
Soon after Carroll’s story was published—soon after her pain was converted, via the alchemies of the internet, into a piece of media—the familiar inertias set in: She had made a claim; he denied it; the world threw up its hands. The New York Times initially relegated this latest allegation that the sitting president of the United States is a rapist to its Books section, mentioning Carroll’s claim in the context of the upcoming literary collection that houses it. (On Saturday morning, per one count, 164 stories were on the Times’ U.S. home page; none of them addressed Carroll’s allegation.) Several other major papers, on Saturday, deemed Carroll’s claim to be unworthy of coverage on their front pages. Over the weekend, the story’s outrages were largely extinguished, its claims consigned to that achingly familiar category of Trump-related news: shocking, but not surprising. “The allegation went largely undiscussed by major TV networks on Sunday morning,” HuffPost noted, “clearing the path for yet another sexual assault allegation against the president to slip into the void.”