In October, 10 different women came forward to share stories about how they claim now-President-elect Donald Trump touched them inappropriately without their consent. Trump denied all of these accusations, but now one of them, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, has filed a defamation lawsuit claiming he lied about groping her.
Zervos previously described a disturbing interaction with Trump in 2007 in which he kissed her, groped her, and pulled her into his bedroom. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, described at a press conference Tuesday how Zervos had spoken with her friends and family about the incident at the time, but concluded that Trump’s behavior was an “aberration.” After the tape went public in October of Trump bragging to Billy Bush about the way he likes groping women — “I don’t even wait” — and other women started coming forward, Zervos realized she was not alone and felt compelled to share her story.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday does not accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, but of defaming Zervos by denying the groping and attacking her character.
“And what did Donald Trump, the liar and misogynist, do to cover up his lies? He lied again, and debased and denigrated Ms. Zervos with false statements about her,” Allred said during the presser. She explained that Zervos had successfully passed a polygraph test in which she recounted the incident with Trump, and Zervos herself said that she will withdraw the suit if Trump admits that he did, in fact, grope her.
Despite accusations from Trump’s supporters that the timing is suspicious, the lawsuit was not filed out of the blue. Allred, who represents four of the women who have accused Trump of inappropriate touching, made clear back in December that the women would contemplate legal action if Trump didn’t back away from his attacks and denials.
Following the onslaught of accusations, Trump sought to demonize the many women as liars, suggesting at one point they were too ugly for him to have approached them in the way they claim he did. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice,” he said of Jessica Leeds, who shared her story of being inappropriately touched by Trump with the New York Times.
100% fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton Campaign, may poison the minds of the American Voter. FIX!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2016
To try to undermine Zervos’ story, Trump issued a statement from her cousin, John Barry, who claimed that she had nothing but good things to say about Trump. “I think Summer wishes she could still be on reality TV, and in an effort to get that back she’s saying all of these negative things about Mr. Trump.” Barry, who spoke glowingly about Trump, was apparently fired from Zervos’ restaurant a few months prior, and may have had a vendetta.
Many also defended Trump by downplaying the severity of the accusations. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) — now his nominee for Attorney General — said at the time that he didn’t characterize the kind of groping Trump described on the Billy Bush tape as sexual assault. “I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant,” he said. Sessions reversed that position during his confirmation hearings last week.