Ex-"Apprentice" contestant files lawsuit against Donald Trump for defamation after coming forward with alleged sexual assault

Trump made "false factual statements to denigrate and verbally attack" Summer Zervos, according to the suit

Published January 18, 2017 12:00PM (EST)

President-elect Donald Trump speaks with reporters after meeting French businessman Bernard Arnault at Trump Tower in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks with reporters after meeting French businessman Bernard Arnault at Trump Tower in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," announced at a Tuesday press conference that she has filed a defamation suit against Donald Trump for using “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, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday, can be viewed online.


According to those court papers, Zervos “was ambushed by Mr. Trump on more than one occasion” over the course of filming the television show in 2007. The lawsuit alleges:

Mr. Trump suddenly, and without her consent, kissed her on her mouth repeatedly; he touched her breast; and he pressed his genitals up against her. Ms. Zervos never consented to any of this disgusting touching. 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 suit also charges that Trump “attacked [Zervos] in a hotel room on a later occasion.” Attorney Gloria Allred told assembled press that Zervos volunteered to take, and passed, a polygraph test.

The lawsuit describes Zervos as having “felt conflicted and confused for years about the incidents.” She came forward in October, after the leak of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, which features Trump boasting about grabbing women by the genitals. Trump has said that he “never met [Ms. Zervos] at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately,” and characterized her charges as lies.

“His statements are plainly defamatory and caused serious harm,” according to the filing. “This lawsuit seeks to make Donald Trump accountable for the significant damage he has caused.”

Law Newz writes that counsel Allred, who is well-known for taking on cases involving anti-woman discrimination, was with Zervos at the press event. The lawyer “suggested she may attempt to subpoena copies of unaired, unedited outtakes from the Apprentice show.” There has been plenty of curiosity about the tapes for months, dating back to October, just after the Access Hollywood tapes leaked. A former Apprentice producer tweeted, “I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justthebeginning.” More recently, comedian Tom Arnold reignited interest in the footage when he claimed he’d seen outtakes from the show featuring Trump, “saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children.”

Law Newz points to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that determined sitting presidents can face civil suits.


Charges of sexual harassment dating back four decades dogged Trump in the months leading up to the election. Jessica Leeds said Trump fondled her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on a flight in the 1980s. “He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere,” she told the New York Times in October. “It was an assault.”

Trump’s ex-wife Ivana was perhaps the first woman to publicly accuse Trump of sexual assault. The charge was made during a deposition in the Trumps early 1990s divorce. Before the release of Lost Tycoon, a Trump biography that made mention of Ivana’s testimony, Donald Trump’s lawyers sent author Harry Hunt III a letter on Ivana’s behalf recanting those accusations:

During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me. [O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a "rape," but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

Trump’s response to mounting allegations of sexual abuse and harassment—most of which emerged after a leaked 2005 video showed him bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”—was that his accusers weren’t hot enough to be merit sexual assault. In response to People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff’s recounting of Trump pushing her against a wall and “forcing his tongue down [her] throat,” Trump told a rally crowd, "Take a look! You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so."

In October, Trump also said he would sue all of his accusers after Nov. 8. "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he said during a Pennsylvania campaign speech. Those lawsuits have failed to materialize.

By Kali Holloway

Kali Holloway is the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She co-curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts 2017 summer performance and film series, “Theater of the Resist.” She previously worked on the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. Her writing has appeared in AlterNet, Salon, the Guardian, TIME, the Huffington Post, the National Memo, and numerous other outlets.

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Alternet Donald Trump Donald Trump Sexual Assault Allegations Summer Zervos The Apprentice