Nancy Mace defends her support for Trump after he was found liable for sexual assault

The Republican lawmaker has spoken out in support of rape victims

March 10, 2024, 5:16 PM

Rep. Nancy Mace on Sunday defended her support for Donald Trump after a civil jury's verdict that the former president sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Mace, a South Carolina Republican, was repeatedly pressed by anchor George Stephanopoulos about her backing Trump in the 2024 presidential race in light of her previously sharing her own story about being raped as a teenager and saying that women often won't come forward for fear of being dismissed.

"Donald Trump has been found liable for rape by a jury. Donald Trump has been found liable for defaming the victim of that rape by a jury. It's been affirmed by a judge," Stephanopoulos said while asking the congresswoman how she squared these facts with her endorsement.

Mace argued that the civil findings against Trump in Carroll's case should not be taken the same way as a criminal conviction. (Trump is appealing.) She also said she felt the question was inappropriate.

"It was not a criminal court case, No. 1. No. 2, I live with shame. And you're asking me a question about my political choices trying to shame me as a rape victim," Mace told Stephanopoulos.

She rebuked his line of questioning as he pushed back over the course of the interview.

"It's actually not about shaming you. It's a question about Donald Trump," he said at one point.

"I have dealt with this for 30 years," Mace told Stephanopoulos. "You know how hard it was to tell my story five years ago when they were doing a fetal heartbeat bill [in South Carolina to restrict abortion] and there were no exceptions for rape or incest in there. I had to tell my story because no other woman was coming forward for us. No rape victims were represented, and you're trying to shame me this morning. And I find it offensive, and this is why women won't come forward."

"I'm not shaming you at all. I called you courageous," Stephanopoulos told Mace, going on to say, "I'm asking you a very simple question."

Much of the interview focused on this contentious back-and-forth over the Carroll verdict and whether it affected Mace's support of Trump.

A representative for Trump subsequently reached out to ABC News about the "This Week" description of the jury's verdict in the Carroll civil action as having found him liable for rape -- since they found him responsible for sexual assault, not rape, in 2023.

However, a judge in that case later issued a determination that "the finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.'

"Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that."

The Trump representative also took issue with the reference to the second jury at the top of the program because it could be understood to relate to the finding of sexual assault or rape and not to the finding of defamation.

Both the 2023 jury and a second jury in 2024 found Trump liable for defaming Carroll. The question of rape or sexual assault was not presented during the 2024 proceeding as the judge instructed the jury to accept that finding from the earlier case as true.

PHOTO: Rep. Nancy Mace looks on during a break as Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, attends a closed deposition with members of the Republican-led House Oversight Committee, in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, 2024.
Rep. Nancy Mace looks on during a break as Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, attends a closed deposition with members of the Republican-led House Oversight Committee conducting an impeachment inquiry into the president, at the O'Neill House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, 2024.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters, FILE

On "This Week," Mace also criticized Carroll for -- in Mace's words -- inappropriately talking about the millions of dollars won in the two civil jury verdicts that Trump defamed her over her account of sexual abuse.

"Quite frankly, E. Jean Carroll's comments when she did get the judgment joking about what she was going to buy, it doesn't -- it makes it harder for women to come forward when they make a mockery out of rape, when they joke about it. It's not OK," Mace said.

Stephanopoulos followed up: "Doesn't it make it harder for women to come forward when they're defamed by presidential candidates?"

"It makes it harder when other women joked about it and she's joked about it," Mace said. "I find it offensive."

She also reiterated that she feels the civil judgments are "very different" than a verdict in a criminal case.

Stephanopoulos separately asked Mace about her support for Trump because she said in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump should be held "accountable" and never "hold office again in the future."

But Mace defended her changing stance.

"I listened to my voters in South Carolina, and they've moved beyond Jan. 6. I said my piece on Jan. 6, I was very clear about how I felt about it. And I also, as you stated, I voted to certify the Electoral College for every single state in the country," she said. "But something's happened between now and then -- and that was Joe Biden."

She maintained that her voters are more concerned about issues like immigration and the border; more broadly she said Trump's 91 criminal charges and his other legal troubles don't "affect the American people" like Biden's policies do.

Stephanopoulos pressed: "You said he [Trump] should be held accountable. How has he been held accountable?"

"Voters held him accountable through our Republican primaries this year. He's won overwhelmingly," Mace said. "America supports him. They're not looking back. They're looking forward."