PRESIDENT TRUMP, following the latest of more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault against him, did not say that he would never touch a woman without her consent. He said, instead, “She’s not my type.”
The crudeness and cruelty of this response to a woman’s recounting of trauma are not surprising. Mr. Trump has said similar things before. But neither the president’s callousness nor advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s accusation in New York magazine that he attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago can be met with a shrug.
Ms. Carroll says Mr. Trump, in the fall of 1995 or spring of 1996, asked for help buying lingerie for “a girl.” Then, in the dressing room, she says, he pushed her against the wall and pulled down her tights and assaulted her. Ms. Carroll did not report the incident to the police, but she did tell two close friends at the time, both of whom have corroborated her account. The Manhattan department store no longer has security tapes from that time.
Mr. Trump claims that Ms. Carroll, in addition to not being his type, is “totally lying.” As a matter of principle, everyone deserves a presumption of innocence. But in Mr. Trump’s case, that has to be tempered by what we know. We know that Mr. Trump routinely traffics in falsehoods. We know that he has shown contempt for the law in many contexts. And we know that Mr. Trump has boasted about assaulting women — grabbing them, as he said during a 2005 conversation on an “Access Hollywood” bus, “by the p—y.” In this context, Ms. Carroll’s allegation is consistent, credible — and horrifying. She writes in her essay published last Friday, “He opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.” Recall Mr. Trump’s words: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Just as we cannot ignore the disdain for the truth and the law that defines this administration simply because we have grown to expect it, we cannot ignore an allegation of sexual assault against the president simply because others have come before it. The United States still has to function with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office, but greeting the grossest abuses as routine veers too close to treating them as acceptable. At the least, the country must do for Ms. Carroll what the president will not: Listen to her.