Woman Who Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Harassment Now Suing Him for Defamation

Summer Zervos, a former "Apprentice" contestant, first accused Trump of sexual harassment last fall. She and her attorney Gloria Allred promise to dismiss her case if the president-elect admits that her allegations are true.

by Mitchell Sunderland
Jan 17 2017, 10:45pm

Photo by Valerie Macon, Courtesy of Getty Images

This morning in Los Angeles, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos sat hunched in a white leather chair surrounded by cameras, as her attorney, Gloria Allred, held her shaking arm. Zervos was announcing at a press conference that she had filed a defamation lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump. Four months earlier, she accused the now-president-elect of sexual harassment—an allegation that he denied. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Strategic Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return Broadly's request for comment. "More of the same from Gloria Allred," Hicks told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no truth to this absurd story."

On November 11, 2016, Zervos asked Trump to issue a retraction, citing comments he had made calling the numerous women who accused him of sexual assault "liars." "I wanted to give Mr. Trump the opportunity to retract his false statements about me and the other women who came forward," Zervos explained. "Since Mr. Trump has not issued a retraction as I requested he has therefore left me with no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation."

Read more: As Donald Trump Tries to Silence Women, a 12th Accuse Comes Forward

"[Trump is a] sexual predator who had preyed on her and other women," Allred said.

The lawsuit stems from events Zervos claims took place in 2007. According to the suit, Trump referred to her as his "OC Angel," because she hailed from Orange County, California, and "ambushed" her on "more than one occasion." In New York in December 2007, Trump, whom the lawsuit refers to as "the liar and misogynist," allegedly kissed her on the lips inside his office in Trump Tower. Shortly afterward, the suit claims Trump again kissed her in a room in the Beverly Hills Hotel Room, although Zervos rebuffed his advances. "Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching," the suit says.

In April 2016, during the Republican primary, Zervos says she contacted Trump's secretary to speak to the then candidate and ask him to apologize. The suit claims Trump never returned her calls. On October 14, 2016, Zervos made the sexual harassment allegations public. That evening, Trump posted a statement on his website: "To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I've conducted my life." For the next four pages, the lawsuit lists Trump's tweets and comments—some made at rallies, other during interviews—about Zervos and her allegations. Allred and Zervos have called the statements false.

"He used his national and international bully pulpit to make false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack Ms. Zervos," Allred said. "Mr. Trump knew his false, disparaging statements would be heard and read around the world."

On November 11, at a separate press conference, Allred asked Trump to apologize to Zervos for the statements. Since then, she says, neither Trump nor his attorneys have contacted her. (Allred also made a point to clarify that she has also not spoken to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or her campaign.) Trump's silence, Allred says, leaves Zervos with "no opportunity other than to sue him." The suit states that Zervos has lost $2,914 because of Trump's comments and that she is seeking to punitive damages to be decided by a jury at trial. If Trump apologizes to Zervos and says he harassed her, Allred promised her client would dismiss the case without seeking financial damages.

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Throughout the press conference, Allred made numerous allusions to Clinton v. Jones. The 1997 Supreme Court Case stemmed from Paula Jones's 1994 sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton, in which the court ruled that a sitting president had to abide by the same laws as the citizens that he governs. During a deposition, Clinton lied about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, and in 1998, Congress impeached him for perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was later acquitted. (The same year, he also settled with Jones for $850,000.) Allred pointed out, "The lawsuit against then President Clinton had consequences for him... This lawsuit will have consequences for then President Trump." On Saturday, she and Zervos will walk alongside the March for Women in Washington DC.

"Today's the day. It's time to face the consequences," Allred said. "Women are not the footnote to history."

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement released by President-Elect Donald Trump's incoming Strategic Communications Director Hope Hicks.