Sex-assault survivors unleash firestorm after CNN let Trump try to re-victimize E. Jean Carroll at town hall

Donald Trump E jean Carroll side by side
Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.REUTERS/Andrew Kelly; Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • A day after a jury found Trump sexually violated E. Jean Carroll, he mocked her as a "whack job" on CNN.

  • Trump's comments, including dismissing her account of the attack as "hanky panky," unleashed a firestorm of anger.

  • CNN let Trump try to re-victimize his own sex-assault victim in front of millions, victim advocates said.

Sex-assault survivors and their advocates are venting their fury and frustration over Donald Trump's CNN town hall appearance, saying the former president tried to re-victimize writer E. Jean Carroll on national TV just one day after a Manhattan jury branded him a predator.

During the appearance Wednesday night, the studio audience of New Hampshire Republicans and independent voters laughed audibly as Trump called Carroll a "whack job" and mocked her account of his brutal attack on her as "hanky panky."

"Clearly, Trump's intention was to disempower a woman yet again," Jane Manning, the director of the Women's Equal Justice Project told Insider, adding that the ex-president "certainly" attempted to "re-victimize a sexual assault victim" with his "absolutely despicable" remarks.

Trump's shaming of Carroll amid his repeated denial of sexually abusing her is textbook for how predators gaslight their victims, according to Manning, a former Queens sex crimes prosecutor.

"He is simultaneously saying this didn't happen and also trying to shame her for her own actions during an incident that he says didn't happen, and that is the kind of gaslighting that sexual predators try to inflict on their victims," Manning said.

Trump asked during the town hall: "What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you're playing hanky panky in a dressing room?"

A civil jury in federal court in Manhattan had on Tuesday found Trump liable for $5 million in damages for sexually assaulting Carroll in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room nearly 30 years ago.

"The guy is trashing E. Jean again," co-host of "The View" Joy Behar complained of Trump's CNN appearance on the talk show Thursday morning. "I wonder if she can sue him for defamation again. He called her a 'whack job.' And while he was trashing her this annoying audience was clapping."

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has said she is a survivor of sexual assault, slammed CNN's town hall with Trump as "shameful."

"What we saw tonight was a series of extremely irresponsible decisions that put a sexual abuse victim at risk ... in front of a national audience and I could not have disagreed with it more. It was shameful," Ocasio-Cortez said on MSNBC on Wednesday.


A spokesperson for CNN defended Kaitlan Collins, who hosted Wednesday night's town hall, as a "world-class journalist."

"She asked tough, fair and revealing questions. And she followed up and fact-checked President Trump in real time to arm voters with crucial information about his positions as he enters the 2024 election as the Republican frontrunner," the spokesperson said.

"That is CNN's role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account."

Trump's spokesperson did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.

Twitter users, including women describing themselves as rape survivors, unleashed their outrage at both Trump and CNN over how Carroll was attacked by the former president during the town hall.

"That town hall is exactly what CNN wanted — a grotesque spectacle where a liable sexual predator and indicted fraud is allowed to bloviate and lie without much pushback while an audience laughs at a rape victim," tweeted Roxanne Gay, author of "Bad Feminist."


"I'm so angry that @CNN has this privilege and they used it to let a rape victim be revictimized with impunity," tweeted trauma coach Jen Carole.

In finding Trump liable for sexually assaulting Carroll on Tuesday, a federal jury in Manhattan rejected her rape account as not proven.


"As a sexual assault survivor I'm disgusted with @CNN," tweeted @Irishrygirl. "You are giving a predator a platform."

"I'm gutted for survivors tonight who may have been re-traumatized by @CNN's senseless prime-time platforming of a sexual abuser & alleged rapist a day after a jury found him liable for sexual assault," journalist Chip Goines tweeted.

Manning told Insider that CNN "deserves to be roundly criticized for giving this kind of free air time in front of a handpicked audience of supporters to a man who tried to dismantle American democracy and is now an adjudicated sexual predator."

She explained how for many survivors of sexual assault the "pain" that comes with being disbelieved "is deeply harmful over and above the harms of sexual assault itself."

"And CNN enabled this kind of harm to be inflicted last night," said Manning.

"The idea of being held up to public ridicule would be a horrifying prospect for any survivor" and it could deter other victims from speaking out, Manning said.

Manning continued, "That's exactly what Trump is trying to do — to make it impossibly hard to speak out against a powerful abuser like him. And it's up to the rest of us to make sure that doesn't happen."

The advocate pointed out that Carroll testified under oath in detail about how she says Trump attacked her, while Trump did not testify or even bother to show up to court.

Trump, said Manning, "can say what he wants in front of a friendly audience, but we should never let him forget that he was afraid to say any of it under oath in court."

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