E. Jean Carroll

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E. Jean Carroll
Carroll smiling and holding an umbrella
Carroll in 2006
Elizabeth Jean Carroll

(1943-12-12) December 12, 1943 (age 80)
EducationIndiana University, Bloomington (BA)
Occupation(s)Journalist, advice columnist
Employer(s)Elle, 1993–2020
Steve Byers
(div. 1984)
(div. 1990)

Elizabeth Jean Carroll (born December 12, 1943) is an American journalist, author, and advice columnist. Her "Ask E. Jean" column appeared in Elle magazine from 1993 through 2019, becoming one of the longest-running advice columns in American publishing.[1]

In her 2019 book, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal, Carroll accused CBS CEO Les Moonves and Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s. Both Moonves and Trump denied the allegations.[2][3][4]

Carroll sued Trump in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (originally filed in the New York Supreme Court) for defamation and battery. On May 9, 2023, a jury found Trump liable for defamation and sexual abuse against Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages.[5] On January 26, 2024, a jury found Trump liable for defamation against Carroll regarding his remarks after the first verdict, and awarded her an additional $83.3 million in damages.[6][7]

Early life

Elizabeth Jean Carroll was born on December 12, 1943,[8][9] in Detroit, Michigan.[10] Her father, Thomas F. Carroll Jr., was an inventor, and her mother, Betty (née McKinney) Carroll, was a Republican politician in Allen County, Indiana.[11][12] The oldest of four children, Carroll was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with two sisters and a brother; as a child, she was called "Betty Jean", "Jeannie" and "Betty".[13] She attended Indiana University. A Pi Beta Phi and a cheerleader, she was crowned Miss Indiana University in 1963, and in 1964, as a representative of the university, she won the Miss Cheerleader USA title.[14] She appeared on To Tell the Truth in 1964.[15][16]


Column: Ask E. Jean

Carroll's "Ask E. Jean" column appeared in Elle from 1993 until 2020. Widely read, it was acclaimed for Carroll's opinions on sex, her insistence that women should "never never" structure their lives around men, and her compassion for letter-writers experiencing difficult life situations.[17][18] When it debuted, Amy Gross, a former editor-in-chief of Elle, compared the column to putting Carroll on a "bucking bronco", describing her responses to readers as "the cheers and whoops and hollers of a fearless woman having a good ol' time."[19] Carroll's writing style often incorporates humor.[20][10][21]

Carroll was fired from Elle in February 2020; she wrote on Twitter that she was dismissed "because Trump ridiculed my reputation, laughed at my looks, & dragged me through the mud."[22] Elle maintained that the decision to fire Carroll was a business decision unrelated to Trump.[21]

Television: Ask E. Jean, Saturday Night Live

Carroll wrote for Saturday Night Live's twelfth season in 1986 and 1987.[10] She was nominated for an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series at the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1987. The Television Academy entry for her nomination mistakenly lists her name as "Jean E. Carroll."[23]

From 1994 through 1996, Carroll was the host and producer of the Ask E. Jean television series that aired on NBC's America's Talking—the predecessor to MSNBC.[24][10] Entertainment Weekly called Carroll "the most entertaining cable talk show host you will never see."[25] Carroll and the show were nominated for a CableACE Award in 1995.[26]

Magazines, books, and anthologies

In addition to writing for magazines including The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, Carroll served as a contributing editor for Outside,[27][10][28] Esquire,[29][30][31] New York,[32] and Playboy. She was Playboy's first female contributing editor.[10][33]

Carroll was known for her gonzo-style first-person narratives.[34][10] She hiked into the Star Mountains with an Atbalmin tracker and a Telefomin warrior, [35] chronicled the lives of basketball groupies in a story called "Love in the Time of Magic";[30] and went to Indiana to investigate why four white farm kids were thrown out of school for dressing like black artists in "The Return of the White Negro".[31] She moved in with her old boyfriends and their wives; [29] and went on a camping trip with Fran Lebowitz.[34][36] Bill Tonelli, her Esquire and Rolling Stone editor, said in a 1999 interview that all of Carroll's stories were "pretty much the same thing. Which is: 'What is this person like when he or she is in a room with E. Jean?' She's institutionally incapable of being uninteresting."[37]

Carroll's work has been included in non-fiction anthologies such as The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years (Vintage Books, 1998), Out of the Noosphere: Adventure, Sports, Travel, and the Environment (Fireside, 1998) and Sand in My Bra: Funny Women Write from the Road (Traveler's Tales, 2003).[27] Her 2002 story for Spin, "The Cheerleaders" was selected as one of the year's "Best True Crime Reporting" pieces. It appeared in Best American Crime Writing, edited by Otto Penzler, Thomas H. Cook, and Nicholas Pileggi (Pantheon Books, 2002).[38][39]

In 1993, Carroll's biography of Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, was published by Dutton. Her memoir, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal was released in June 2019. The title refers to the 1729 satire A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.[40] In 2019, The New York Times referred to Carroll as "feminism's answer to Hunter S. Thompson."[34]

Profiling women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct

In 2020 and 2021, for The Atlantic, Carroll wrote a series of articles that profiled several of the 25 women that have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.[41][42][43][44][45] Her profile of Jill Harth, who alleged that she had been groped by Trump, appeared in Vanity Fair in January 2021.[46] In October 2021 This American Life featured Carroll in conversation with Jessica Leeds, who also accused Trump of sexual misconduct.[47]


In 2002, Carroll co-founded greatboyfriends.com with her sister, Cande Carroll. On the site, women recommended their ex-boyfriends to each other.[48] GreatBoyfriends was acquired by The Knot Inc. in 2005. In 2004, she launched Catch27.com, a spoof of Facebook. On the site, people put their profiles on trading cards and bought, sold, and traded each other.[49] She launched an online version of her column, askejean.com, in 2007. In 2012 Carroll co-founded Tawkify, "a personal concierge for dating." She also advised Tawkify's matchmaking team.[1]

Sexual abuse and defamation by Donald Trump

On June 21, 2019, Carroll published an article in New York magazine which stated that Donald Trump had sexually assaulted her in late 1995 or early 1996 in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City. Further details of the incident were published in her book What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal.[2][16][50] Carroll said that on her way out of the store she ran into Trump and he asked for help buying a gift for a woman. After suggesting a handbag or a hat, the two reputedly moved on to the lingerie section and joked about the other trying some on. Carroll said they ended up in a dressing room together, the door of which was shut, and Trump forcefully kissed her, pulled down her tights and raped her before she was able to escape. She stated that the incident lasted less than three minutes.[51][52] Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin told New York magazine that Carroll had confided in them shortly after the assault.[16][2][53]

Trump denied the allegations and claimed that he had never met Carroll.[51] However, Carroll provided New York a photograph of her socializing with Trump in 1987.[16][54] Trump dismissed the photograph's significance.[51]

Carroll initially chose not to describe the sexual assault as rape, instead describing it as a fight. "My word is fight. My word is not the victim word ... I fought."[55][56][57]

Defamation lawsuit

In November 2019, Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court. The suit stated that Trump had damaged her reputation, substantially harmed her professionally, and caused emotional pain. Carroll stated "Decades ago, the now President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak out about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying for personal gain, even insulted my appearance." She stated that she was "filing this (lawsuit) on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled." White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham described the suit as "frivolous" and claimed Carroll's story was fraudulent.[58]

In September 2020, government lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) asserted that Trump had acted in his official capacity while responding to Carroll's accusation; they asserted that the Federal Tort Claims Act[a] grants their department the right to take the case from Trump's private lawyers and move it to federal court.[59] This would have ended the lawsuit, as the government cannot be sued for defamation.[60] Carroll's lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, stated that "Trump's effort to wield the power of the U.S. government to evade responsibility for his private misconduct is without precedent."[59] In October 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan (not related) rejected the DOJ's motion, arguing that the president is not a government employee and that Trump's comments were not related to his job.[61] The following month, the DOJ filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.[61]

In June 2021, the DOJ argued to the Second Circuit appeals court that DOJ lawyers should defend Trump as a federal employee.[62] On September 27, 2022, the appeals court ruled that "we cannot say what the District would do" in terms of allowing Trump to be shielded by his former office as U.S. president.[63] On October 19, Trump was deposed as a witness in the case.[60] In January 2023, the District of Columbia (D.C.) appeals court held oral arguments before a full panel of judges.[64] Trump's lawyers argued that his comments fell within the scope of his employment, while some judges pointed out that D.C. law holds employers responsible when their employees cause individuals harm in the scope of their employment but not otherwise.[65][66]

On November 24, 2022, Carroll sued Trump for battery in New York under the Adult Survivors Act, a law passed the previous May that briefly allowed sexual assault victims to file civil suits regardless of expired statutes of limitations.[67] Carroll made a renewed claim of defamation, citing statements Trump made in October.[68][69] In February 2023, Judge Kaplan scheduled the trial date for April 25.[52][70]

On April 13, 2023, Carroll disclosed that part of her legal expenses were funded by Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, venture capitalist, and donor to the Democratic Party.[71]

On May 9, 2023, a jury of six men and three women found Trump liable for sexual abuse, battery and defamation. On the issue of rape, the jury found it was not proven that Trump had raped her as specified in New York law, which specifies rape as the nonconsensual and forcible penetration with one's penis. The jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse in that he nonconsensually digitally penetrated her.[72][73] Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages. CBS News stated, "They found Trump liable for sexual abuse, not sexual assault."[5] Following the verdict, during a Town Hall on CNN, Trump repeated that Carroll's narrative was a 'fake,' 'made up story' invented by a 'whack job.' [74] He filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on May 11, 2023.[75]

On May 23, 2023, seeking $10 million in additional damages, Carroll asked the court to expand the 2019 defamation lawsuit to include Trump's post-verdict remarks on CNN and Truth Social.[76] The court granted the motion and the second defamation trial was scheduled for January 15, 2024.[77]

In June 2023, Trump counter-sued Carroll for defamation after she told CNN, "yes he did" rape her in response to a question about the jury not finding him liable for that offense. Judge Kaplan dismissed the lawsuit in August, ruling that Carroll's rape claim against Trump was substantially true.[78]

In September 2023, Judge Kaplan issued a summary judgment in Carroll's favor, stating that the facts established by the trial jury were indisputable.[79] On January 16, 2024, after Joe Tacopina dropped his representation of Trump just as the case was about to resume, ex-Trump attorney Tim Parlatore said that he thought Tacopina had, in prior proceedings, "...barely cross-examined Jean Carroll."[80]

On January 26, 2024, a jury found Trump liable for $18.3 million in compensation for emotional and reputational harm, and $65 million in punitive damages, totalling $83.3 million.[81]

Sexual assault allegations against Les Moonves

Carroll was one of 13 women who accused CBS Corporation chairman and CEO Les Moonves of sexual assault in 2019. She says the incident occurred in the late 1990s in a hotel elevator after interviewing Moonves for a story; he denied the allegation.[2]

Personal life

Carroll lived in Montana with her first husband Stephen Byers before moving to New York City to pursue a career as a journalist.[82] She and Byers divorced in 1984.[83] Her second marriage was to John Johnson,[16] an anchorman and artist. Carroll and Johnson divorced in 1990.[24]

Carroll lived in upstate New York as of April 2023.[13]

Selected books

  • 1985: Female Difficulties: Sorority Sisters, Rodeo Queens, Frigid Women, Smut Stars, and Other Modern Girls, Bantam Books, ISBN 978-0-553-05088-2
  • 1993: Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, Dutton, ISBN 978-0-525-93568-1[84]
  • 1996: A Dog in Heat Is a Hot Dog and Other Rules to Live By, a collection of her Ask E. Jean columns, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-0-671-56814-6[85]
  • 2004: Mr. Right, Right Now!: How a Smart Woman Can Land Her Dream Man in 6 Weeks, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-053028-0[86]
  • 2019: What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1-250-21544-4[87][88]



  1. ^ The Federal Tort Claims Act is a 1946 federal statute that permits private parties to sue the U.S. in federal court for most torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the U.S.


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External links