E. Jean Carroll: a week in the media’s glare

Posted at 6:16 AM, Jun 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-30 14:42:22-04

E. Jean Carroll says she didn’t expect the intensity of the media spotlight, even after her sexual assault allegation against now-President Donald Trump was published on the cover of New York magazine.

“I thought there might be a little ripple and I thought ‘maybe somebody will call,'” she said during this week’s Reliable Sources podcast, but “who could foresee this?”

The past week of her life has been like this — full of tapings and interviews and interactions with strangers. The book containing her Trump account will hit bookstores on Tuesday, July 2.

Usually, Carroll said, she walks around unnoticed, but ever since her first television interviews, people have been stopping her on the street to thank her: “With the tears welling in their eyes, and taking my hand, and saying ‘I can’t tell my story, thank you for telling yours.'”

Carroll said she has stayed off of Twitter — and all other social media — since her story went public, so she hasn’t really been exposed to the negativity, including from the president and his allies.

“This is probably why I’m so happy and serene because I’m not hearing that stuff,” she said after host Brian Stelter read her an insulting tweet from Donald Trump Jr.

Carroll is a celebrated advice columnist with a long history of writing for magazines and TV shows.

Even as other women went public with allegations against Trump during the 2016 election — all of which Trump has denied — Carroll worried that sharing her story would only help Trump, and she believes she was right. “It didn’t hurt when all the women came forward. It helped him,” she asserted.

For Carroll, the real turning point was after the Harvey Weinstein scandal made international news. She noticed an immediate change in the letters from her Elle magazine readers. They felt more free to seek advice about issues like sexual violence.

“They’re coming to me for advice and I’ve been holding back all these years, it’s time. And I did it,” she said.

The resulting book is titled “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal.” Carroll set out to hear the perspectives of women across the country. And “I couldn’t help but remember a few of the hideous men in my own life,” she said.

During the podcast interview, she said she wanted to point out that “this is not a Trump book.”

“The book is 277 [pages]. The chapter about this man is 11,” she said.

That’s true — and the chapter comes at almost the very end of the book. It describes an attack in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman’s in New York City in the mid 1990s.

For obvious reasons, her charge of criminal conduct by the president has overshadowed the rest of the book. The President has denied that he attacked her.

Carroll’s book editor at St. Martin’s Press, Elisabeth Dyssegaard, said the rollout — starting with the New York magazine cover — was strategic.

Dyssegaard told CNN’s Sara Murray that the publishing house decided to release the excerpt about the Trump encounter to New York nearly two weeks before the book’s release date so that readers could first grapple with that alleged incident and then turn to the book’s larger theme.

“The book is so much bigger than that,” Dyssegaard said. She described it this way: “I don’t think there’s any woman on the planet who hasn’t had something happen to her as a result of bad behavior from men. That’s why publishing books like E. Jean’s is so important. We have to acknowledge and talk about it. It also helps if you can laugh about it once in a while, otherwise it’s too hard and too dark.”

As for the provocative question in her title, “What Do We Need Men For?,” Carroll said the women she interviewed expressed that “we all really like men, and many of us really love men. We just don’t want them to run everything.”

Carroll said her goal was to collect the stories of many women, because she was “fed up … with the terrible things that men were doing… and I wanted to get women on the record, I wanted to hear what they thought because I’m one little woman so I wanted hear all the women’s voices.”

Dyssegaard said “it’s important for woman in their teens and 20s to see this stuff has been going on forever. And it’s really important for older women to have it acknowledged.”