WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says a New York-based advice columnist who claims he sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the mid-1990s made a "totally false accusation" against him and he denied knowing the woman.
"I have no idea who this woman is," Trump said Saturday as he left the White House for the Camp David presidential retreat.
The president scoffed when questioned about a photo of himself with his accuser, E. Jean Carroll, which New York magazine published on its website along with Carroll's description of the alleged assault by Trump. Also in the photo were Trump's then-wife, Ivana Trump, and Carroll's then-husband, New York newscaster John Johnson.
"Standing with my coat on in a line. Give me a break," Trump said of the 1987 photo. "With my back to the camera."
The allegation against Trump is included in Carroll's upcoming book about the "hideous men" the Elle magazine columnist says she has encountered throughout her life. Trump also accused New York magazine of publishing Carroll's claims against him and others to boost its readership.
Trump's first comment came in a White House statement Friday in which he deemed the accusation "fake news" and said there was no evidence.
The Associated Press has not independently verified Carroll's account and she did not return the AP's telephone request for comment. The Trump Organization, which Trump still owns, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Carroll wrote that a friendly encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman in 1995 or 1996 turned violent when the real estate mogul pushed her up against a dressing room wall, unzipped his pants and forced himself on her. Carroll said that, in a "colossal struggle," she pushed him off and ran from the store.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct in earlier years. Trump has denied the allegations and said the women are lying. While those cases generally involved groping and kissing without consent, Carroll alleged forced penetration.
Carroll, now 75, wrote in her book excerpt on the magazine's website that Trump recognized her as "that advice lady" as he arrived at the Fifth Avenue store just as she was leaving. She said Trump invited her to help him buy a present for an unidentified "girl" and she agreed.
Carroll said that after Trump suggested a purchase of lingerie or underwear, he grabbed a bodysuit and urged Carroll to try it on. After some joking around about which one of them should try it on, Trump led Carroll to a dressing room, where, she alleged, Trump pushed her against a wall, pulled down her tights and assaulted her in an episode that lasted under three minutes.
Carrol said there were no attendants in the dressing room area and she did not file a report with the New York Police Department. She said she did, however, tell two journalist friends, one of whom urged her to contact the police while the other advised her to keep quiet, citing Trump's access to lawyers.
New York magazine said it confirmed the accounts of Carroll's friends, but it did not identify them by name.
Trump noted the lack of evidence in his Friday statement. Bergdorf told New York magazine it no longer had security tapes from that time period.
"No pictures? No surveillance? No video? No reports? No sales attendants around?? I would like to thank Bergdorf Goodman for confirming they have no video footage of any such incident, because it never happened," Trump said.
Trump was caught boasting on tape in 2005 about grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them without permission. When the tape became public weeks before the November 2016 general election, Trump said he never acted in any of the ways described on the tape, and said it was just "locker-room talk."
In March, a New York state appeals court ruled that Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump's reality TV show "The Apprentice" who accused him of unwanted kissing and groping, can move forward with her defamation lawsuit against him.
Trump isn't the only prominent man on the list of men who Carroll alleges have assaulted her.
She also claimed that Les Moonves, the former CEO of CBS, mauled her in the elevator of a Beverly Hills hotel after she interviewed him in 1997. Moonves was one of television's most influential figures when he was ousted in September 2018 following allegations by women who said he subjected them to mistreatment, including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.
Moonves told New York magazine that he "emphatically denies" the incident occurred. He did not respond to the AP's requests for comment.