One of Trump's accusers, a former Apprentice contestant, files defamation suit

click to enlarge Summer Zervos spoke briefly to reporters at a press conference Tuesday. - Screen shot, Facebook Live
Screen shot, Facebook Live
Summer Zervos spoke briefly to reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

Just three days before President-Elect Donald J. Trump officially becomes president, one of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct last fall has filed a lawsuit claiming that Trump's comments about her in the wake of the accusations constitute defamation.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, said in October that Trump, the show's former host, made inappropriate comments to her on multiple occasions (and she wasn't the only one to emerge with claims of harassment at that point). Trump dismissed the comments, calling Zervos and his other accusers liars. Zervos's lawyer, Gloria Allred, said Trump's calling Zervos a liar, along with an onslaught of trolling and harassment from Trump supporters, damaged her client's reputation as well as her emotional state. The two discussed the suit Tuesday during a Los Angeles press conference.

The suit calls for Trump to retract his comments condemning Zervos as a liar, and Allred said if he were to do so, they would drop the suit.

Of course, in doing so, Trump would be admitting that the harassment she described took place.

Zervos alleges that after competing on The Apprentice, she approached Trump several times to ask for a job. Once, she said, he kissed her on the lips. Another time, she claimed, he tried to coerce her onto a hotel bed.

She did not want to go public with her claims, Allred said, and had considered the incidents to be more or less one-offs.

“She did not go public or take any action against Mr. Trump at that time, however, because she decided that Mr. Trump's behavior had either been an aberration, a test, or that he had even regretted or been ashamed of his behavior,” Allred said.

That apparently changed last October with the release of the notorious Access Hollywood tapes in which Trump is heard bragging about a deliberate pattern of unwanted sexual advances on women.

"For the first time, Summer Zervos saw Trump's behavior for what it was: that of a sexual predator who preyed on her and other women," Allred said, reading from the suit. "She realized that she was just one of many women who had been victimized by Trump's predatory conduct. Ms. Zervos could no longer rationalize or excuse Mr. Trump's behavior by telling herself that his behavior had been a mistake or an isolated incident for which he might even be ashamed. Mr. Trump has no shame."

Trump of course vehemently denied the claims, even going so far as to call the accusation "a bold-faced lie" during an October 9 presidential debate. On Nov. 11 Zervos called on him to retract his comments suggesting she was a liar because they were defamatory in nature. Since he never did, she said in a brief statement to media on Tuesday, she's suing.

“More than two months have gone by, and he has not issued that response," she said. "I wanted to give Mr. Trump the opportunity to retract his false statements about me and the other ladies that came forward. Since Mr. Trump's not issued a retraction as I requested, he has therefore left me with no alternatives other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation.”

Asked why they didn't go after Trump on the sexual misconduct claims themselves, Allred said “I can't comment on why we have not asserted other claims. But this is the claim that we are asserting, the defamation, at this time.”

She added that, although Trump's legal team will likely do what it can to stall the suit, it's only fair that Trump be made to discuss his words and behavior “in a court of law rather than in his bedroom, tweeting, in the middle of the night.”

"We fully expect that Mr. Trump will use every means at his disposal to try to delay this case and avoid having to give his testimony under oath in a deposition in this case and before a jury in a court of law," Allred said. "We believe that the justice system will provide Ms. Zervos the opportunity to litigate her case even though she is suing the most powerful individual on this planet. That is the essence and the beauty of our system of justice. No one is above the law, including the President-Elect, soon to be President, of the United States.”

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