E Jean Carroll says she received death threats after accusing Trump of rape

Ed Pilkington in New York
Photograph: Craig Ruttle/AP

E Jean Carroll, the esteemed New York journalist who has alleged Donald Trump raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the 1990s, now sleeps with a loaded gun by her bed having received online death threats.

In the course of a two-hour interview with the Guardian in her upstate New York cabin, the advice columnist described the fallout of her decision to go public last month with the most serious allegations of sexual assault yet leveled at the US president. She said she had received so many threats that she had been forced to stop looking at her social media feeds, and for the first time in her life had bullets loaded into the handgun in her bedroom.

“I’m not stupid,” Carroll said in reference to the threats and the loaded gun. But she added she has also been buoyed by the number of women who had commented or written to her in vast numbers.

“The mail bag is huge, I can’t begin to get through it. Women are telling me their stories – and that’s the biggest thank you you can get.”

Carroll’s rape allegations are contained in her new book What Do We Need Men For? In it she gives an account of how she bumped into Trump at Bergdorf’s one evening in late 1995 or early 1996.

They chatted, and when Trump tried to get her to put on an item of lingerie she told him to put it on. Together, they entered a small dressing room where he allegedly attacked her.

Carroll has avoided using the word “rape” to describe the incident, but she agrees that what she says occurred fits the legal definition of rape.

The journalist did not report the incident to police but she did tell two close friends about what allegedly occurred. The friends, both prominent media figures, have confirmed her account about their conversations.

Trump has denied the allegations, saying he has never known Carroll even though a photograph surfaced of the two with their then respective spouses at a 1987 party. He has also said “she’s not my type”.

The Guardian asked Carroll whether she had any doubts about the identity of her alleged rapist. She replied: “Zero. Zero. Recognizing him was a big deal for me.”

In an excerpt of her book carried by New York magazine three weeks ago, she said she had kept the black Donna Karan coat-dress she had worn that evening “unworn and unlaundered” behind her closet door.

Carroll is only the second woman to come forward with rape allegations against Trump. The first was his then wife Ivana Trump, who alleged in divorce papers he had raped her during the marriage, though she later moderated the account to say she had not used the word “rape” in a “literal or criminal sense”.

Even with such serious allegations, Carroll’s book received an initially restrained response from the US media. The New York Times placed a report on her account of Trump attacking her in its books pages, while Barnes & Noble initially located the book in its flagship New York store in the fourth-floor women’s studies section.

“You want to know how to bury a book? That’s how you do it,” Carroll said.

Carroll told the Guardian she hesitated for years coming forward with her allegations, describing herself as a “coward”. She also suspected that branding Trump a sex attacker might paradoxically help him politically.

“It’s the image of a male leader – think Alexander the Great, think Genghis Khan. Think John F Kennedy. Great leaders take what they want without asking.”

Despite having raised rape allegations against the sitting US president, Carroll is convinced Trump will win re-election in next year’s presidential election. “No matter what anyone does, Trump will win. I think he’s got it sewn up.”

In her view, the chances of a strong female Democrat such as US senators Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren competing with Trump and winning were nil. “America can’t take a woman as leader. We have a woman problem.”

Asked for her advice to Harris were she to win the Democratic nomination and face Trump in a presidential debate, she replied: “If I was Kamala, I would go over and just slap his face. Take that! First with the left and then the right. That would be so good.”

Read the full Guardian interview with E Jean Carroll in Saturday’s Weekend magazine, or return to this article on Saturday morning to find a link to the interview