Donald Trump Gives No Quarter to E. Jean Carroll - or Her 'Hanky Panky' Claims - at CNN Town Hall

Former President Donald Trump at CNN town hall (5/10/23) (Credit: CNN)

Former President Donald Trump appeared on CNN Wednesday evening for a “town hall” conducted by CNN host Kaitlan Collins. (While it was a town hall at times, the majority of the event consisted of Collins debating Trump herself.)

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While Collins spent much of the first 30 minutes arguing with Trump over whether the 2020 election was rigged and whether he reacted appropriately to the events of January 6, 2021, the topic did eventually come around to Tuesday’s verdict in E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against the former president, finding him liable of sexual abuse and defamation. While the Trump camp has indicated they intend to appeal the verdict, Trump himself gave no quarter — to the case itself or to Carroll, who he, at one point, referred to as a “whack job.” (I’ll say this, it takes a certain degree of chutzpah to call the woman who just won a defamation case against you for calling her a liar…a liar and a whack job.)

The clip below captures some of Trump’s indignance over the case and the issue he takes with Carroll’s story (though, as Collins did later point out, he ultimately opted not to attend the trial or testify at it, upon his counsel’s advice).

It begins with Trump’s supposition as to what was behind Carroll’s allegations and lawsuit: election interference (i.e., with an eye towards hampering his 2024 election bid). He continues with his thoughts on Carroll and her story:

This woman — I don’t know her. I never met her. I have no idea who she is. I had a picture taken years ago with her and her husband  — nice guy — John Johnson, he was a newscaster, very nice man. She called him an ape — happens to be African American — called him an ape. The judge wouldn’t allow us to put that in. Her dog, or her cat, was named “Vagina.” The judge wouldn’t allow [us] to put that in. All of these things, he wouldn’t — but with her, they could put in anything: Access Hollywood, put in anything..

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Collins interjected, noting: “This was a jury of nine people who found you liable of sexual abuse — do you think that that will deter women from voting for you?”

Trump responded:

No, I don’t think so, because I think the whole thing — just so you understand — ready? I never met this woman. I never saw this woman. This woman said I met her at the front door of Bergdorf Goodman — which I rarely go into, other than for a couple of charities — I met her in the front door. She was about 60 years old then — this was like 22-23 years ago — I met her in the front door of Bergdorf Goodman. I was immediately attracted to her and she was immediately attracted to me, and we had this great chemistry — we’re walking into a crowded department store — we had this great chemistry, and a few minutes later, we end up in a room — a dressing room — at Bergdorf Goodman, right near the cash register, and then she found out there were locks on the door, so she said, “I found one that was open.” She found one — she learned this at trial — she found one that was open. What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up, and within minutes, you’re playing hanky panky in a dressing room, okay? I don’t know if she was married then or not. John Johnson, I feel sorry for you, John Johnson.

Critics will undoubtedly pick this apart, but watch the video and you’ll see — this was Trump playing to an audience, relating a story with comedic timing and gestures, which the audience in turn found comical. The camera pans to the audience at one point and they’re clearly laughing, some covering their mouths as if to acknowledge they know they really shouldn’t but can’t quite help themselves. And this is the thing about Trump that his most ardent detractors never quite seem to get. It is that Trump, and the Trump who refuses to be corralled and refuses to accept the premises of his inquisitors, who millions of people genuinely enjoy and appreciate — precisely because he will not dance to the tune of the corporate media drummers.

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As a lawyer, I’d be cringing to no end to have my client discussing a case so publicly and unabashedly while we’re still contemplating an appeal (which could, in turn, result in an order for new trial), but Trump isn’t worried about the court of law nearly so much as he’s worried about the court of public opinion. He’ll never get a unanimous verdict there, but it appears he revels in the challenge.

 

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