At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred announced that former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos is suing Donald Trump for defamation. Zervos alleged in October that Trump subjected her to unwanted sexual touching in 2007, and that he withdrew an implied job offer after she refused his advances.
Allred said at the press conference that after Zervos came forward, Trump “lied, debased and denigrated” her in public, denying that he’d ever met her. She pointed out some of the many public statements Trump made about Zervos and the other women who accused him of sexual assault or harassment.
Allred said the lawsuit accuses Trump of using “his national and international bully pulpit” to disparage Zervos and the other women, subjecting them “to threats of violence, economic harm, and reputational damage.” She accused Trump of “knowingly, intentionally and maliciously” throwing the women “under the bus.” She called his statements “plainly defamatory.” Allred also claimed that Zervos passed a polygraph test (which are admissible in court in California at jury trials. Update: Allred said at the end of the press conference that the suit is being filed in New York, where polygraphs are generally not admissible.)
Allred said too that Zervos is “willing to dismiss her lawsuit if he will retract his false statements about her” and acknowledge his “sexually inappropriate” conduct against her. She also said that she expects Trump will try to avoid being deposed or give testimony, but argued it’s necessary for him to appear in court “rather than in his bedroom by tweeting in the middle of the night.”
In her own statement, Zervos noted that she waited two months between asking Trump to issue a retraction and filing suit, and said she had no alternative but to sue. She added she would still be willing to dismiss the suit “for no monetary compensation” if he admitted she had told the truth.
The defamation suit was filed Tuesday morning, Allred said. A sitting president can be civilly sued, but a judge could potentially rule that the suit could proceed only after he leaves office.