About a week after longtime ELLE advice columnist E. Jean Carroll published an article in New York Magazine accusing President Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, the two women she initially told about the incident have gone public.
In an interview for the New York Times podcast, “The Daily,” reporter Megan Twohey interviews Carroll’s two friends, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, who both worked in the media industry with Carroll at the time of the assault. This is the first time they have been publicly identified, though in the New York Magazine piece, Carroll writes:
Did I tell anyone about it? Yes. I told two close friends. The first, a journalist, magazine writer, correspondent on the TV morning shows, author of many books, etc., begged me to go to the police.
“He raped you,” she kept repeating when I called her. “He raped you. Go to the police! I’ll go with you. We’ll go together.”
My second friend is also a journalist, a New York anchorwoman. She grew very quiet when I told her, then she grasped both my hands in her own and said, “Tell no one. Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.” (Two decades later, both still remember the incident clearly and confirmed their accounts to New York.)
Martin and Birnbach both had previous encounters with Trump beforehand; Birnbach had interviewed Trump at his club Mar-a-Lago, and Martin had met him at the news station where she worked.
The Times reports that the podcast is the first time the friends have discussed the alleged assault since it occurred. The article for New York (which is an excerpt from Carroll’s upcoming book What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal), was also Carroll’s first time speaking publicly about the incident with Trump, writing that she was sexually assaulted by the president in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s. Trump has since denied the allegation and said Carroll was not his “type.”
On “The Daily,” Carroll describes calling Birnbach right after she left the store. At first, the two were laughing about the incident before Birnbach realized that what Carroll was describing was rape. She then told Carroll to report the incident to the police, but Carroll didn’t want to and said, at the time, she felt partially responsible for the attack.
A few days later, Carroll told Martin who, as described, told Carroll not to tell anyone because of Trump’s powerful position and his team of lawyers.
When asked on the podcast why Carroll did not come forward about the story in 2016, Carroll said she thought it would help Trump win the presidential election. “Because it is a masculine, powerful, leader-like thing to do to take what you want, to have as many women for your own pleasure as you can take,” she said.