The president-elect of the United States is being sued for defamation.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, accused Donald Trump in October 2016 of having sexually harassed her nine years earlier. At the time, Trump dismissed Zervos’ allegations, as well as the allegations of several other women who came forward with similar claims; he called these women liars and accused them of making up stories in order to get his opponent, Hillary Clinton, elected.
During a press conference on January 17th, Summer Zervos announced that she had filed a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump. She said on Tuesday that Trump knowingly and repeatedly lied to throw her and other accusers under the bus.
“In doing so, he used his national and international bully pulpit to make false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack Ms. Zervos and the other women who publicly reported his sexual assaults in October 2016,” the lawsuit reads. “Mr. Trump knew that his false, disparaging statements would be heard and read by people around the world, and that these women, including Summer Zervos, would be subjected to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage.”
Zervos is being represented by Gloria Allred, whose clients frequently include victims of sexual abuse. In October, Zervos said that she met with Donald Trump in 2007 to discuss a job opportunity, only for him to forcibly kiss her and thrust his genitals at her as she told him to stop. Gloria Allred says that she has spoken to several people who Zervos told about the incident at the time and who can corroborate. Allred also said on January 17th that Zervos has passed a polygraph test.
You can read the entire defamation lawsuit, which was filed in the state of New York on January 17th, below:
Here’s what you need to know about Summer Zervos and her allegations.
1. She Competed in the Fifth Season of ‘The Apprentice’
Summer Zervos encountered Donald Trump when she competed in the fifth season of The Apprentice, Donald Trump’s hit NBC show. The fifth season aired from February to June of 2006.
Zervos was the first contestant to be fired that season. In the show, blame was placed on her for not calling up enough restaurants for a promotion while she competed with the Gold Rush team, and so she was fired by Trump at the beginning of the season.
The Apprentice contestant grew up in California, and she came to New York in order to be on the NBC reality series. Ironically, the next season would end up taking place in Los Angeles, but Zervos said in an interview at the time that she enjoyed the experience of coming to New York City.
“I am a little bummed,” Zervos said of the fact that she just barely missed the season that was being filmed in California, where she is from. “But being in New York, living here…I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
In her statement in October, Zervos says that she admired Trump before coming on The Apprentice, seeing him as a possible mentor. This high opinion of Trump continued even after she was fired, which is why she got in contact with him about a year later.
2. She Says Donald Trump Forcibly Kissed Her on the Lips
Zervos says that a year after her experience on The Apprentice, she was going to be in New York City for a social obligation, and so she decided to contact Trump to see if he wanted to have lunch. She says she was told that Trump didn’t have time but that he could meet her at his office in Trump Tower.
As soon as she arrived at Trump’s office, Zervos alleges that Trump immediately kissed her on the lips.
“She was taken aback, but thought perhaps that Mr. Trump just greeted people that way,” the lawsuit reads.
Zervos says she decided to let the kiss go, and the two began talking. Trump then allegedly told Zervos that he would love to have her work for him, and he complimented her for being smart and attractive. Then, just as she was about to leave, Zervos says that Trump kissed her on the lips a second time.
“The kisses on her mouth — done without her consent — made Ms. Zervos feel uncomfortable, nervous and embarrassed,” the lawsuit reads. “She felt that it was inappropriate behavior. She spoke to a friend and her parents about it, all of whom concluded that this must just the way that Mr. Trump greeted people.”
3. She Says That Trump Sexually Assaulted Her When She Met With Him at a Hotel
Zervos says that Trump called her up when she returned home from that meeting and asked her to meet him at a hotel to discuss a job opportunity. Trump was coming to Los Angeles, and he wanted to have dinner with her and meet at a Beverly Hills hotel, Zervos says.
When she met with Trump, Zervos alleges that he again began kissing her on the mouth very aggressively, going on to place his hand on her breast. She says that she tried to get him to stop, making clear she was not interested.
“Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching,” the lawsuit reads. “Instead, she repeatedly expressed that he should stop his inappropriate sexual behavior, including by shoving him away from her forcefully, and telling him to ‘get real.’ Mr. Trump did not care, he kept touching her anyway.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that, “Mr. Trump repeated her words back to her lasciviously, drawing out the second word and saying, “get reeeeal,” as he began to press his genitals against her, trying to kiss her again.”
Zervos alleges that she repeatedly avoided sexual contact and told Trump that she just came to have dinner, and after this was made clear, Zervos says that Trump became angry. She says that over dinner, Trump suddenly began speaking all about business, and shortly after dinner, they parted for the night. Zervos adds that when she tried to follow up about a job with the Trump Organization, now that it was clear she did not want to sleep with him, Trump avoided taking her calls.
4. She Originally Came Forward Because of the ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape
Summer Zervos says that she came forward specifically because of the Access Hollywood tape on which Trump brags about being able to force himself on women, kissing them before they even have a chance to say anything. The behavior he talks about in that conversation with Billy Bush is essentially a description of what Zervos alleges happened during her meetings with Trump. Multiple other women have described the same activity.
The defamation lawsuit states that Zervos had no plans to go public with this story until the Access Hollywood tape came out. For years, Zervos says she thought that Trump’s behavior towards her was an isolated incident or that he may have regretted it.
“On October 7th, when Mr. Trump’s own recorded, crude and vulgar comments to Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood tapes, recorded in 2005, were broadcast, it became clear that Mr. Trump’s sexually inappropriate behavior towards Ms. Zervos was entirely consistent with Mr. Trump’s own words and with his belief that he had the right to sexually assault women – and even boast about it,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Zervos “felt a responsibility to inform the public” of the true facts after Trump told voters during the second presidential debate that he never engaged in the type of activity described in the Access Hollywood tape and that it was simply locker room talk.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the motives of his accusers, asking why they did not come forward until he ran for president. The majority of them said that it was in response to Trump stating during the presidential debate that he has never sexually harassed or sexually assaulted anyone. Some have also said that they avoided saying anything because they were worried someone like Trump would strike back and sue them if they did. Trump did, in fact, threaten in October 2016 to sue all of the women who accused him of sexual assault, though he never followed through on that.
5. Trump Denied These Allegations & Said Zervos’ Made Up Her Entire Story
A few hours after Summer Zervos’ press conference, Donald Trump released a statement refuting everything she said. He said that he “vaguely” remembers her but that he never met her in a hotel at all and never engaged in inappropriate personal contact with her at any point.
“That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life,” Trump said. “In fact, Ms. Zervos continued to contact me for help, emailing my office on April 14th of this year asking that I visit her restaurant in California.”
This does not contradict Zervos’ claims, as she says in her lawsuit that she felt in the years after the alleged incident that Trump likely regretted his behavior and that it was only when the Access Hollywood tape was released that she realized he did not.
Over the next few weeks, Trump repeatedly stated that these women were liars, that their stories were phony, and that they made them up in order to have their 15 minutes of fame.
Trump also speculated that the women were trying to help Hillary Clinton get elected president. Summer Zervos said during her press conference that she is a Republican.
In the days following the leaked Access Hollywood tape, some of the women who came forward with sexual assault accusations included: Jessica Leeds, who said Trump sexually assaulted her on an airplane 35 years ago; Rachel Crooks, former Trump Tower employee who said Trump forcibly kissed her in an elevator; Natasha Stoynoff, People Magazine writer who said Trump sexually harassed her during an interview in 2005; and Kristin Anderson, who said Trump reached up her skirt without consent in a nightclub during the 1990s.
Several former Miss Universe and Miss USA contestants have also shared stories about what they describe as predatory behavior on the part of Donald Trump, including the fact that he would walk in as the women were changing and look at them naked. Trump himself admitted to doing this during an appearance on the Howard Stern Show.