Summer Zervos, a contestant on the fifth season of the Apprentice, is the latest of many women to come forward to allege that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sexually assaulted her.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Zervos — standing alongside well-known feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing her — described an encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 in which she says Trump kissed her, groped her, pulled her to his bed, and thrust his genitals on her.
After being “fired” from the Apprentice, Zervos, who said she had greatly admired Donald Trump, contacted him while in New York a short time before, and he invited her to his office and kissed her twice on the lips, which she said “embarrassed” her, but which she and her family, whom she consulted with, took as Trump’s form of greeting.
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Shortly after, Trump let her know that he was going to be in California and asked if she would like to come to dinner. Zervos met Trump at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where a security guard escorted her to Trump’s bungalow.
She said Trump called to her seductively, and “then asked me to sit next to him. He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.” Zervos described repeatedly pushing Trump away and verbally telling him to stop.
“He then grabbed my hand and pulled me into the bedroom,” she said. “He grabbed me in an embrace, and I tried to push him away.”
Zervos said that she told Trump to cut it out, and he “repeated my words back to me as he began thrusting his genitals.”
Zervos then described breaking free of Trump and moving to the other side of the room, and protesting that she had come there for dinner. Trump ordered dinner to the room, and asked her to hide in a side room when it was delivered. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania Trump, at the time when Zervos alleges the assault took place.
Zervos, who broke down in tears during the conference, said she had kept the encounter secret throughout the years and only ever told two close friends, both of whom confirmed the encounter to Allred. She said that she was moved to come forward after the 2005 Access Hollywood tape broke showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women — and after Trump’s blanket denial in the second presidential debate that he had ever treated women in the way he described.
“ You do not the right to treat women as sexual objects just because you are a star,” Zervos said. She is the just the latest of many woman to come forward since the Access Hollywood tape broke.
In fact, she was the second woman to come forward on Friday — mere hours before, Kristin Anderson told her story to The Washington Post. Anderson says that in the early 1990s, while she was an aspiring model in Manhattan, Trump casually reached up her skirt and touched her vagina. Anderson told the story to multiple friends at the time and throughout the years, some of whom confirmed it to the Post.
“I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it, and nothing would happen,” Anderson told the Post. “There was zero conversation. We didn’t even really look at each other. It was very random, very nonchalant on his part.”
Her description also strongly tracks with Trump’s own on-tape admission of his behavior. On October 7th, the Washington Post published a tape of Trump himself, in 2005, describing behavior that amounts to sexual assault, including describing kissing women without permission and grabbing their genitalia. Trump and his campaign, trying to sweep it under the rug, initially said that Trump’s comments were “just words” (and have also characterized it as typical manly “locker room talk”).
Even before the tape broke, many women had already publicly described Trump’s predatory sexual behavior. And, many of them saying they are outraged over Trump’s denials, a flood of women have since come forward to share their stories of groping and harassment by Donald Trump throughout the years.
If you ever wonder why sexual assault victims don't come forward, just look what's happening now to those who do.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 14, 2016
In response to the deluge, the Trump campaign has embraced tried-and-true silencing tactics: Surrogates have promoted debunked right-wing theories meant to discredit the women’s stories, minimized the victim’s experiences by accusing them of “trivializing” sexual assault, attempted to cast doubt by questioning the “timing” of the allegations. Trump himself has also attacked some of the women’s appearance, saying that they are too ugly to merit sexual assault.
It’s exactly this kind of treatment that keeps so many victims quiet. Many victims of sexual harassment and assault say that they didn’t speak up immediately about what happened to them because of fears that they wouldn’t be believed, that nothing would change, or that they’d face retaliation.
Trump’s threats of retaliation have even gone further than most high-profile accusers face: Not only has Trump threatened to sue The New York Times for printing the women’s stories, but a high-ranking source within the campaign has also signaled to CNN that they might go after individual women, “politically motivated accusers better lawyer up.”
It was after these comments that Allred, a famed attorney who often takes on high-profile harassment and discrimination cases, said that she would be willing to represent Trump’s alleged victims. A few of Allred’s other high profile clients have included ‘Jane Roe’ in Roe v. Wade, the Simpson family in the O.J. Simpson trial, and recently, several of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims.
Before Zervos spoke, Allred gave a statement condemning Trump’s words.
“He thinks he can say whatever he wants and then muzzle his accusers?”
“The White House is not a locker room,” she said. “His response that it was all locker-room talk is chilling when you consider the words coming from a man seeking the highest office in the land.”
Allred also condemned the Trump campaign’s denials and attempts to smear and slander the women coming forward.
“To all of these women, Donald offers staunch denials then threatens to sue the newspapers. He thinks he can say whatever he wants and then muzzle his accusers?” she said. “In essence, [Trump and his campaign] are declaring war on women. But women will not be silenced by this tactic. Women are now empowered, and will not be bullied anymore.”
Allred has tangled with Trump before: In 2012, she represented a trans contestant whom Trump had refused to allow to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant, which Trump owned at the time. Trump relented, but not before offering to show Allred his penis, saying, “I think Gloria would be very very impressed with me, I really do.”
Typical of his behavior during the campaign, Trump also took to Twitter to air grievances and insults.
Using the service TwitLonger, which allows users to Tweet more than 140 characters, he speculated that the contestant, Jenna Talackova, had changed her name so it would spell out “Jennatal (genital?)” and questioned Allred’s gender, saying “Is Gloria a man or a woman???? — few men would know the answer to that one.”