A former contestant on Donald Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” on Friday became the 11th woman to accuse the Republican nominee of sexual assault or misconduct, alleging that in 2007, Trump brought her to a hotel bungalow and forced himself on her.
Speaking at a press conference in Los Angeles, Summer Zervos described an encounter with Trump in a Beverly Hills hotel room where, she said, Trump kissed and groped her. Nearly a dozen women have come forward in recent days with similar stories of unwanted sexual advances from Trump, who has denied all accusations.
Zervos said she reached out to Trump some time after appearing on the NBC show in hopes of getting work at Trump’s real estate company. (Zervos appeared on the fifth season of “The Apprentice,” which aired in 2006.) She lived in L.A., but met with Trump during a trip to New York and asked about a job.
Zervos says that Trump kissed her on the lips at the start of their meeting ― “I was surprised, but felt that perhaps it was just his form of greeting” ― and praised her performance on his show. He mentioned that he’d be in Los Angeles soon and would be in touch.
“As I was about to leave, he again kissed me on the lips,” Zervos said. “This made me feel nervous and embarrassed. This is not what I wanted or expected.”
At Trump’s request, Zervos said, she gave him her phone number. “I left hurriedly and called a friend who lived in New York, because I was upset by the kiss,” she said. “I also called my parents to let them know what had happened.”
Back in L.A., she says, Trump called her and asked to meet her for dinner. Rather than take her to a restaurant, Trump had one of his security guards escort her to a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Soon after she arrived, Zervos said, Trump “came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed as he was pulling me towards him. I walked away and I sat down on a chair ... He then asked me to sit next to him. I complied, and he then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.”
When she got up and walked away, she said, Trump “grabbed my hand and walked me into the bedroom.” She walked out of the room, at which point she says Trump suggested: “Let’s lay down and watch some telly-telly.”
“He put me in an embrace and I tried to push him away,” Zervos said. “I pushed his chest to put space between us, and I said, ‘Come on, man, get real.’ He repeated my words back to me ― ‘get reeeal’ ― as he began thrusting his genitals. He tried to kiss me again, and with my hand still on his chest, I said, ‘Dude, you’re tripping right now.’”
“He said, ‘What do you want?’” Zervos said. “And I said, ‘I came to have dinner.’ He said, ‘OK, we’ll have dinner.’”
Once it was clear she would not entertain his advances, Zervos said, Trump “paced around the room. He acted like he was a bit angry. He pointed out that someone had delivered a fruit basket.” Zervos said she felt like Trump pointed out the fruit basket “to show me how important he was.”
Over a shared sandwich for dinner, Zervos said, Trump advised her to default on her home mortgage, even though the loan was in good standing. Trump, she said, bragged about how he was able to “maneuver to get out of debt.” Once she defaulted on her home, Trump told Zervos, she should call the bank and say she planned to leave the keys on the kitchen table and walk away forever. “He said that would be a mini version of what he does,” she said.
Trump does, in fact, have a long history of using bankruptcy courts and debt defaults to get out of having to repay money he borrows from banks and investors. His four corporate bankruptcies have dogged Trump on the presidential campaign trail, where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has joked that Trump’s many ghostwritten business advice books “all seem to end at Chapter 11.”
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment.
UPDATE 11:55 p.m. ― Trump responded to Zervos on Friday evening, saying in a statement that he barely remembered her from “The Apprentice,” and “never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.”
Also on Friday, Trump’s campaign issued a statement from what it said was a Zervos cousin named John Barry, who said Zervos had always spoken highly of Trump. Barry speculated that Zervos’ account of the assault was “an attempt to regain the spotlight at Mr. Trump’s expense,” according to the statement.
The Huffington Post was unable to independently verify Barry’s authenticity, or his relationship to Zervos.
UPDATE: Oct. 15: Attorney Gloria Allred told The Huffington Post on Saturday that a third witness, Ann Russo, has come forward to corroborate Zervos’ account of her experience with Trump. Allred also confirmed that John Barry is a cousin of Zervos’ who previously worked at her family restaurant but whose employment ended “several months ago.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.