I was sitting in a wine bar at the Denver airport when the news came up on my iPad: “Donald Trump is found liable for sexual abuse and defamation.”
I looked up, expecting some sort of reaction from the wine bar crowd.
Instead, they kept talking sports and delayed flights and whether to order the charcuterie or the flatbread.
Had they not heard the news?
I played with the idea of making some sort of announcement — like a modern-day town crier — but I’m not that brave.
Instead, I shared the headline with a woman sitting next to me, who had leaned over to ask about the ordering protocol.
“Have you seen this?” I asked, turning my iPad toward her.
“He didn’t even know her!” she huffed.
It wasn’t the female bonding moment I’d been hoping for, though I did get that from the employee who took my order. “She gets $5 million?” she asked. “She deserves it!”
Somewhat buoyed, I splurged on a $30 glass of champagne and quietly celebrated, avoiding eye contact with my “he doesn’t even know her” neighbor.
Yet I could not get that woman’s words out of my head. Not during the five-hour layover in Denver. Not on the bumpy plane trip back to SLO. And not now — especially after hearing Trump’s bombastic denial at his CNN town hall gathering.
“She wasn’t raped, OK? … And I didn’t do anything else either, OK, because I don’t know who the hell she is,” he insisted.
Of course, he knew her!
And of course, she was telling the truth!
Why on earth would any woman call up a friend, as E. Jean Carroll did, and say, “You are not going to believe what happened to me,” and then go on to recount some terrible thing that happened to her?
It’s a way of processing the terrible thing that happened and it’s something many — maybe even most — women do.
In this case, Carroll telephoned her friend, Lisa Birnbach, minutes after the 1996 assault and not only told her that she was raped inside a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City, but she also named her assailant, Donald Trump.
Yet to the Trump faithful, it’s all a pack of lies.
Never mind that infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump admitted to grabbing women’s genitals: “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said then. “You can do anything.”
Never mind Trump’s ludicrous defense: He didn’t know Carroll and besides, she wasn’t his “type” — even though he mistook Carroll for his former wife Marla Maples when he was shown a photograph during his deposition.
Never mind that another woman testified that Trump sexually assaulted her on an airplane. “It was like he had 40 zillion hands,” she said.
They are liars, these women!
Yet a nine-member jury unanimously chose to believe the women. The six men and three women on the jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll and defamed her. But the jury did not find that Trump raped Carroll.
My neighbor at the bar explained why Trump had lost the case: It could only have happened in New York, she told her husband in a voice loud enough for me to overhear.
In other words, it never would have happened in a state like Florida or Texas or Utah or Tennessee.
She may be right about that.
If millions of voters could believe the Big Lie — that Trump rightfully won the election — it’s not much of a stretch to get them to believe that he was wrongfully convicted by an out-to-get-him New York jury.
After all, he didn’t even know her!
She wasn’t his type!
She didn’t scream!
She didn’t go to the police!
And it’s not just some random woman in a bar saying those things.
“It makes me want to vote for him twice,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said post-verdict, adding that with a New York jury, “he had no chance.”
As incredible as it seems, a man found liable for sexual assault in a civil trial could win the Republican nomination and go on to be elected president of the United States.
Because the New York jury got it wrong.
He didn’t even know her.