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Trump's comments about E. Jean Carroll caused up to $12.1 million in reputational damage, expert tells jury

E. Jean Carroll testifies against Trump
E. Jean Carroll testifies at defamation trial against Trump 05:36

It could cost as much as $12.1 million to repair the harm to the writer E. Jean Carroll's reputation caused by a pair of defamatory statements former President Donald Trump made in 2019, a professor told a federal jury in New York on Thursday.

Thursday's testimony by Northwestern University professor Ashlee Humphreys sought to quantify how many people saw and believed two statements Trump made denying he sexually assaulted, or had ever even met, Carroll. The judge overseeing Carroll's suit against Trump has already determined the statements were defamatory, and the jury is tasked with determining what damages she should be awarded. A separate jury last year found Trump liable for sexual abuse and another defamatory statement.

Trump attended the first two days of the damages trial, but was not in the courtroom Thursday as Humphreys described how she quantified the harm done to Carroll. The former president was in Florida, attending his mother-in-law's funeral.

In 2019, Carroll wrote a story in New York magazine accusing Trump of assaulting her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Trump vehemently denied the accusation. After coming forward, Carroll was the target of a torrent of criticism and graphic threats, including of rape and murder, some of which were displayed for the jury on Wednesday.

Humphreys said she calculated the harm to Carroll's reputation by analyzing articles, tweets and TV broadcasts referencing both of Trump's defamatory statements. She then determined how many people had seen the stories or segments on the same day they appeared. She concluded the damage to Carroll's reputation as a journalist was "severe."

An artist's sketch showing Northwestern University professor Ashlee Humphreys testifying at the trial between former President Donald Trump and the writer E. Jean Carroll on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024
An artist's sketch showing Northwestern University professor Ashlee Humphreys testifying at the trial between former President Donald Trump and the writer E. Jean Carroll on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 Jane Rosenberg

She said there were as many as 104,132,285 impressions on those pieces on just the first day each was aired or published. As many as 24,788,657 viewers likely believed the claims, she said.

Humphreys said an analysis of comments made about Carroll before Trump's defamatory statements showed she "was known as kind of a truth-teller, a sassy advice columnist." Afterwards, Humphreys said she was perceived as "a liar, a Democratic operative." 

The cost of repairing Carroll's reputation would range from $7.3 million to $12.1 million, Humphreys concluded.

Earlier Thursday, Carroll completed more than a day of testimony in the case. Under cross-examination, Trump attorney Alina Habba pointed out that there were celebrities who lauded Carroll after her trial victory over Trump in May 2023, when a jury awarded her $5 million. Habba asked Carroll if she's more well-known now than before she first made her allegations.

"Yes, I'm more well-known, and I'm hated by a lot more people," Carroll said.

Habba also displayed negative tweets that users posted during the five-hour period in 2019 between her allegations becoming public and Trump first commenting.

Under questioning by her own attorney, Roberta Kaplan, Carroll said that during that window she was the subject of mean tweets, but did not receive rape or death threats, and was not accused of being a Democratic operative working against Trump.

Kaplan also played a brief video clip of Trump repeating his denial of Carroll's claims during a speech in New Hampshire on Wednesday. Throughout the trial, Kaplan and other attorneys for Carroll have pointed to ongoing allegedly defamatory statements said by Trump, including in recent days, and indicated they want the jury to award more than just an amount needed to fix Carroll's reputation.

They've said they want the jury to decide "how much money he should pay to get him to stop doing it."

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