Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” said on Jan. 17 that she has filed a defamation lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Facing questions about how a defamation suit against President Trump is being funded, a lawyer for plaintiff Summer R. Zervos has issued a statement saying that the Internet fundraising appeal she has hosted on her website has brought in only a fraction of what it will take to pursue the case.
“To date the fund has received donations of just under $30,000,” wrote prominent women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred in a statement published Sunday on her Facebook page.
“We anticipate that the costs alone in this case will be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” wrote Allred, who said that she is not charging any fees for her own legal work, that neither of the two law firms involved in the case has been paid fees, and that “the donated funds have not and will not be used to personally benefit Ms. Zervos in any way.”
The statement comes as the #metoo movement continues to roil the spheres of show business, media and politics, and in the immediate wake of an article published in the Hill alleging that Allred’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, “sought to arrange compensation from donors and tabloid media outlets for women who made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump.”
Bloom responded in a statement, saying, “This is just the latest effort to try and discredit my clients and me.” Few law firms, Bloom said, are willing to represent women who come forward with allegations against powerful men. “Why? Because it is not only very challenging work, where lawyers will immediately be subjected to frequent threats of violence and waves of hate, but because it’s an economic challenge to keep the doors open for business in a civil rights firm.”
The Bloom Firm is separate from Allred’s law firm, Allred, Maroko and Goldberg.
In the immediate run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Bloom said, her firm received unexpected offers of financial support after an unnamed Trump accuser backed out of a planned news conference after receiving “multiple death and rape threats.”
Bloom said many donors then reached out “with offers to ensure the safety of women who might still come forward.”
On Monday, the New York Times published an article saying the movement has become politicized, with activists across the political spectrum offering to help support cases that might bring down a rival. “Political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation,” wrote Ken Vogel.
Zervos is one of more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of inappropriate sexual behavior. In the wake of the October 2016 release of the Access Hollywood video, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, Zervos alleged that in December 2007, Trump kissed her forcibly and thrust his genitals in an encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Trump immediately denied the allegations and subsequently called his accusers “liars.”
In January, shortly before Trump’s inauguration, Zervos filed a defamation suit against him. Trump’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, which is being brought in a state court. A New York judge is expected to rule soon on whether the case can proceed.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Allred declined to comment on funding strategies employed by other law firms, and said this was the first time she had sought financial support for the victim of alleged sexual misconduct.
“I’ve been doing sexual harassment cases for 42 years, and we have never sought funding for any of those cases,” Allred said. “In the thousands of victims, we have never sought funding, public or private,” she said.
The reason for the change, Allred said, is “because we’ve never sued the president of the United States previously.”