Lionel Shriver has narrated this article for you to listen to.
I’m an unlikely defender of Donald Trump. Politically, he’s not my boy. Most of the former president’s hyperbolic rants make me cringe. Yet last week, I had to agree with DT that a jury’s award of $83.3 million of his assets to E. Jean Carroll for defamation was ‘absolutely ridiculous’.
Keeping track of all the cases against Trump can be challenging, so let’s review. In 2019, while Trump was still president, Carroll went public with the accusation that back in 1995 – or was it 1996 – he raped her in the lingerie dressing room of Manhattan’s upscale clothing retailer Bergdorf Goodman. Trump denied the encounter had ever occurred and claimed he’d never met the woman; she was ‘totally lying’ and besides, she was not his type. Previously an advice columnist for Elle magazine, Carroll sued Trump for defamation, the case soon getting bogged down by appeals.
In 2022, Carroll sued Trump in civil court for rape. The jury didn’t buy the rape charge, but did find Trump liable for the lesser ‘sexual abuse’ – awarding her $5 million. When she continued to publicly allude to the ‘rape’, Trump filed a defamation countersuit. The same hardly neutral judge threw the countersuit out on the grounds that to ordinary people ‘rape’ and ‘sexual abuse’ were the same thing. I beg to differ.
Trump kept denying his culpability in rallies and on social media, calling Carroll a ‘whack job’. Carroll resumed her defamation suit and won. Her lawyers were asking for minimum damages of $10 million. After conferring for under three hours, the jury awarded her $83.3 million instead.
That’s serious money even to Trump, who may scramble to rustle up the cash to put in escrow as he appeals the verdict.