In the end, the audacious claims Donald Trump made in 2005 about the way he could treat women might have doomed his chances of defeating a sexual assault lawsuit.
E. Jean Carroll brought the suit, and a federal jury in New York this week awarded $5 million to her on her claim that he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s and then defamed her by calling the encounter a hoax.
Trump never showed up in the courtroom to defend himself against the allegations brought by Carroll, now 79, a former longtime Elle magazine advice columnist, and his lawyers offered no defense witnesses.
But Carroll’s chief lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday that in a videotaped pretrial deposition last October that was shown to the jury in Carroll’s case, “he made admissions where he was basically a witness against himself.”
‘Access Hollywood’ tape
Kaplan was referring to Trump’s reaction to remarks he made during taping for the celebrity TV show “Access Hollywood” in 2005. During that taping, he said to show host Billy Bush, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it … You can do anything,” including, he said in a vulgar comment, grab women by their genitals.
Asked in the deposition about the veracity of his thoughts in the “Access Hollywood” tape, Trump replied, “Well, historically, that’s true with stars.”
“Well, if you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true,” Trump said. “Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately, or fortunately.”
“And you consider yourself to be a star?” Trump was asked.
“I think you can say that, yeah,” he said.
In the “Today” show interview, Kaplan rhetorically asked, “Who uses the word ‘fortunately’ to talk about sexual assault?”
The jury on Tuesday decided against Carroll’s claim that Trump had raped her in a dressing room at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1996. But it ruled in her favor that he had sexually abused her and then defamed her over several years by saying her claim was a “scam,” a bid for her to make money off the sale of a memoir in which she disclosed her encounter with Trump. He also said the lawsuit was part of the Democrats’ political scheme to undermine his 2024 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Her claim was in a civil lawsuit, not a criminal case, and as a result there was no threat of a conviction or imprisonment for Trump.
Carroll said of the verdict, “I’m overwhelmed, overwhelmed with joy and happiness and delight for the women in this country.”
‘Getting my name back’
She said of the damages awarded her, “I didn’t even hear the money. This is not about the money. This is about getting my name back, and that’s what we accomplished.”
She said that as the trial ended, Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina “came over to congratulate me. He put out his hand, and I said, ‘He did it and you know it.’ And then we shook hands and I passed by, so I got my chance to say it.”
Trump assailed the verdict on his Truth Social media outlet and said he would appeal. He continued to claim he did not know Carroll, although a photo introduced at the trial showed them at a New York party several years before Carroll said he assaulted her.
The photo also undermined Trump’s claim that Carroll was not “my type.” Shown the photo at the October deposition, Trump misidentified Carroll as Marla Maples, his second of three wives, and he acknowledged he was attracted to all his wives.