Donald Trump is hoping to keep his gross treatment of women out of court. The women who’ve come forward to tell their stories of being groped, kissed, and grabbed by Trump over the years are hoping that a lawsuit brought by one of them, former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, will at least mean that their experiences are heard and taken as seriously as those of Harvey Weinstein’s victims. Or Bill Cosby’s. Or Kevin Spacey’s. Or Mark Halperin’s.
Not that any of those accusers got justice, even in the court of public opinion, quickly—but they didn’t have to watch their harassers or rapists be inaugurated president, either. The White House press secretary didn’t call them liars on national television. And it’s that response that’s at the center of the lawsuit that Trump’s victims hope will let them be fully heard:
The plaintiff in the lawsuit — Summer Zervos, a
contestant on Mr. Trump’s show “The Apprentice” — is represented by the law firm of Gloria Allred, who has helped bring cases against Bill Cosby and other high-profile defendants. They claimed that Mr. Trump defamed Ms. Zervos during the campaign when he repeatedly described her and other accusers’ accounts as “lies” and “nonsense” and said the women either were being put forward by his opponent Hillary Clinton’s campaign or were motivated to come forward by getting “10 minutes of fame,” according to the complaint.
Mr. Trump has sought to dismiss or stay the case, claiming that a sitting president cannot be sued in state court and that his comments amount to political speech, arguments that were reaffirmed by his legal team in a brief filed on Tuesday. But lawyers for Ms. Zervos point to the United States Supreme Court ruling that allowed Paula Jones to bring a sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton while he was in office, and several law professors have filed briefs supporting the legal grounds for such a suit.
Trump’s lawyers are fighting this one hard. It’s almost like they know that if he was deposed, he might say something that would look bad. (Or impeachably dishonest.)
But we can fulfill part of this lawsuit’s goals right now by just taking these women seriously and including Trump on every list of powerful men who abuse women.