Trump’s defamation hurt my status, writer E. Jean Carroll testifies

Trump’s defamation hurt my status, writer E. Jean Carroll testifies

© Reuters. E. Jean Carroll enters Manhattan Federal Court, in the second civil trial after she accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, in New York City, U.S., January 17, 2024. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/ File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -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 U.S. president of rape.

Under questioning from Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba at a civil damages trial in federal court in Manhattan, Carroll, 80, acknowledged receiving more attention from media and celebrities since publicizing her rape claim in June 2019, but said she has also been widely disparaged.

“My status is lowered,” Carroll told Habba. “I am partaking in this trial to bring my old reputation and status back.”

Carroll is seeking at least $10 million from Trump for two statements he made as president, in which he denied assaulting her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room and said she concocted the claim to promote her memoir.

U.S. 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 decide only how much Trump should pay Carroll.

Following Carroll’s testimony, a damages expert told jurors on her 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 claiming that he tried to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

MORE WELL KNOWN, AND MORE HATED

Carroll’s rape claim was first publicized in a book excerpt in New York magazine.

In Thursday’s proceedings, Habba told jurors that Carroll was being attacked on Twitter for five hours before the White House denied her claim, including that Carroll was a “disgrace” and promoting “fake news” to ruin Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

Habba was trying to show that Trump’s denial did not shatter Carroll’s reputation, as Carroll had testified on Wednesday, and that the writer has leveraged her claim into newfound fame as an advocate for women.

Carroll agreed that the $5 million verdict has drawn praise from celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cusack, Bette Midler, Alyssa Milano, Rob Reiner and Mira Sorvino, but that 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, a Northwestern (NASDAQ:NWE) University professor specializing in sociology and consumer behavior, said Trump’s June 2019 statements caused “severe” harm to Carroll’s reputation.

Humphreys estimated that at least 21.3 million to 24.8 million people saw the statements in major media or on Twitter and likely believed them, undermining Carroll’s standing as “a truth teller, a sassy advice columnist.”

Twitter is now known as X.

TRUMP POST

Trump had been in the courtroom on Tuesday and Wednesday but was not there on Thursday, so he could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral in Florida.

In overnight posts on his Truth Social website, Trump referred to Carroll’s earlier testimony that she threw out some emails from people who criticized her coming forward, and that she owned an unlicensed gun she inherited from her father.

“Now that E. Jean Carroll has admitted to illegally deleting and destroying mountains of evidence (as well as, it seems, unlawfully owning a gun and buying ammunition!), if Judge Lewis Kaplan does the right and PATRIOTIC thing, he will immediately dismiss the current Election Interfering Witch Hunt Trial,” Trump wrote.

Trump could testify next week.

Kaplan had warned him on Wednesday that he might be ejected from the trial if he kept making comments loud enough for the jury to hear, after Carroll’s lawyers said they could hear Trump calling their client’s case a “witch hunt” and “con job.”

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