A judge ruled Tuesday in favor of a woman who has previously accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment, permitting her to move forward in a defamation case against the president.
Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, sued Trump after he publicly dismissed her allegations and called her a liar. In 2016, she claimed Trump had groped and forcibly kissed her on multiple occasions; he responded by stating her accusations, as well as all of the other accusations against him, were “100 percent, totally and completely fabricated,” and promised he would sue “all of these liars.” Zervos was one of over a dozen women to levy such allegations against the then-candidate.
Trump’s legal team has asserted that the New York state court overseeing Zervos’ case at this time had no jurisdiction over the president. But Justice Jennifer Schecter strongly disagreed with this argument in her decision. “No one is above the law,” she wrote in her decision. “It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts.”
Tuesday’s court ruling may not be directly about Trump’s inappropriate and offensive behavior toward women, but it’s certainly a victory for the many women accusing him—and for all women who have been victimized by sexual abuse from a superior, as the decision makes it all the more likely that Trump will have to respond to questions about how he has treated women in the workplace.
In a statement released after the decision, one of Zervos’ lawyers said that she was “grateful for the opportunity to prove that that defendant [Trump] falsely branded Ms. Zervos a phony for telling the truth about his unwanted sexual groping.”
Just a month before the 2016 election, the Washington Post released audio of Trump telling other men that famous men could “do anything” to women, with or without their consent. “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them,” he says on the tape. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab ’em by the p-ssy. You can do anything.” After the audio was released, roughly 20 women came forward accusing Trump of assault and harassment. Most of the accusations involved being grabbed or kissed without consent.
The president is presently embroiled in a number of other legal battles, such as one being led by an adult film star and director he allegedly had an affair with and pressured into silence. All of these allegations, some consensual and most others not, and their recurring presence in the news cycle raise critically important questions about Trump’s treatment of women. It’s unlikely the president will ever take responsibility or confirm any of the allegations of abuse, but it’s important that these allegations and individual women’s experiences remain in our national consciousness.
It’s important that we never forget what Trump’s presidency means to women who have survived sexual assault and harassment—and watched as their experiences were sidelined and disbelieved while their abusers received promotions or other rewards despite their actions.