E. Jean Carroll needs up to $12.1 million to fix her reputation for Trump's defamation, expert testifies at trial

E. Jean Carroll leaves Manhattan federal court
An expert testified Thursday that it would take millions to repair E. Jean Carroll's reputation after former Pres. Donald Trump's comments about her.AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
  • It would cost $12.1 million to fix E. Jean Carroll's reputation, an expert calculated at her trial.

  • Carroll sued over two statements Donald Trump made in 2019 calling her a liar.

  • She testified at the defamation trial this week that her reputation as a truth-teller has been ruined.

If E. Jean Carroll wants to clean up the mess Donald Trump has made of her reputation, it would require a bill of up to $12.1 million, an expert testified at their defamation trial Thursday.

The trial is being held in a downtown Manhattan federal courtroom over two statements Trump made in 2019 defaming Carroll when he called her a liar for alleging he raped her in the mid-1990s.

To calculate how much the jury ought to award Carroll in compensation, Carroll's legal team hired Ashlee Humphries, a professor of consumer sentiment at Northwestern University, to calculate how many people saw those statements.

Adding up the viewership of tweets, articles, TV broadcasts, and other media, she said those two denials from Trump reached up to 104.1 million people.

Humphries "considered it an undercount," she said, because her examination didn't capture media organizations that paraphrased Trump's denial of the rape and disparagement of Carroll as a liar.

Humphries then estimated the cost of a reputation repair campaign, which would essentially amount to an advertising campaign across different media platforms that would try to persuade them to believe Carroll.

Because of the political valence around Trump's denials, it would be hard to change people's minds, Humphries said. She suggested Carroll could place messages with influencers trusted among Trump's audience, like Joe Rogan and Candace Owens, and pay for advertisements to appear multiple times.

"The attitudes at issue here are strongly held," Humphries said.

30% of the readership in particular Elle, where Carroll was a longtime advice columnist, is politically conservative, Humphries testified.

It also didn't help that Trump has continued to disparage Carroll in the years since his first statements, including at a press conference in New York Wednesday night, after the trial day.

"In general, repeated claims only strengthen people's attitudes when they come from a trusted source," Humphries said.

$12.1 million in compensatory damages for Carroll to fix her reputation, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

In an opening statement this week, Carroll's legal team asked the jury to impose massive punitive damages on top of the compensation.

Trump already lost a trial last year, when a jury sitting in the same courtroom concluded that Trump sexually abused Carroll and defamed her by lying about it. The jury in that case awarded Carroll $5 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages.

Since losing that case, Trump has only ramped up the attacks on Carroll, insulting her appearance and claiming he is the victim of a conspiracy. Her attorneys have asked for punitive damages to "make him stop" defaming her. Punitive damages could also send a message to other wealthy people that they cannot get away with lying about sexual abuse victims.

Carroll, finishing her testimony in the trial Thursday, said her reputation has been marred by Trump's attacks. She was once known as a truth-telling advice columnist and journalist who taught women how to live their lives. Now, she said, Trump tarnished her as a liar.

"I'm more well known," Carroll said, responding to Trump's lawyer Alina Habba asking her whether she gained fame for accusing Trump of rape. "And I'm hated by a lot more people."

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