The plentiful sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump have receded into the background since he won the presidential race, but a star lawyer is committed to making sure the nation doesn’t forget about them.
Gloria Allred, a famous women’s rights lawyer, is currently representing several women who accused the president-elect of sexual assault or misconduct during his campaign. Despite legal threats from Trump — soon to be the most powerful man in the country — she has no plans of backing down.
“This story became eclipsed the day that FBI director [James] Comey suggested he was looking into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails. And then, of course the day before the election he said, ‘Nothing there.’ Too late though because that may have motivated many of the Trump supporters to go to the polls,” she said in a Thursday interview with Yahoo News. “Yes, the story was eclipsed, but I don’t think the story is over yet.”
Allred also pointed to the fact that Clinton got a plurality of the vote, though Trump won the Electoral College by a comfortable margin. She said Trump losing the popular vote was in part a rejection of his treatment of women.
“A minority voted for him in spite of it, maybe some even because of it,” she continued. “And some perhaps completely ignoring or minimizing it. And that is a very big disappointment to many, many people because it should matter. I frankly think it should be a disqualifier.”
The controversy surrounding Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct erupted after a 2005 tape, leaked in October, revealed him boasting about how his celebrity status allowed him to grope and forcibly kiss women. He later dismissed this as “locker-room talk” and claimed to have never acted on those words. But the denial led to a stream of women accusing Trump of groping or kissing them without their consent. On the campaign trail, Trump disparaged these women as liars and threatened to sue them, saying their stories were “fiction” and “fabrications.”
“Not only the words on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, but if it is believed that he in fact acted on those words,” Allred said, “and then, knowing that he acted on them, called his accusers ‘liars.’ … That together should be more than sufficient to disqualify someone from the highest office in our land, president of the United States, someone who should be a role model for all of us.”
She is concerned that Trump’s successful election might normalize or legitimize his alleged behavior in the eyes of some young men. Those men might start to think, she suggested, “And if he can do that and get away with it, what’s wrong with my doing it?” She said that fear also applies to his rhetoric about Muslims or any other minority group.
Allred pointed out that many Republicans have also condemned his alleged conduct, saying they would not want their wives or daughters subjected to such behavior. She also said that there would have been consequences for any high school students who acted like Trump when she was a teacher more than 40 years ago. The lack of serious consequences, she said, risks enabling a person’s bad behavior.
“Matter of fact, one has to ask has he benefited from this while the accusers have in fact been harmed? In other words, did that help him to win?” she said. “Were there those who enjoyed the fact that he would lash out at women who allege that he had in fact harmed them by acting on those words?”
Allred said victim-blaming and victim-shaming have been a topic of conversation for many years but that the election of Trump demonstrates the need for even more education.
On Nov. 11, Allred held a press conference with former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who last month accused Trump of groping and kissing her without her consent. At the post-election event, Zervos challenged Trump to retract his claim that the accusers are liars and to assure that he would not take legal action against them. Zervos said that though it’s painful and hard to go up against the most powerful man in the world, she would continue to speak out.
“Summer Zervos, who is with me today, and who is one of his accusers, is not intimidated by his threats, but she believes that his retraction of his threat to sue the women is the right thing for him to do,” Allred said.
Meanwhile, Sandra Park, the senior staff attorney for the women’s rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the women’s accusations against Trump revealed that there is “serious work ahead” to address sexual assault in the U.S.
“The outpouring of women disclosing their stories shows that we have serious work ahead to end sexual violence in our country,” Park told Yahoo News via email. “Addressing sexual violence is not a partisan issue. Women, men and children are victimized, regardless of political party.”
Lisa Maatz, the vice president of government relations and advocacy for the American Association of University Women, said that amid the transition bustle, the allegations against Trump have fallen out of the headlines but are still on the minds of many American women.
“It’s part of the reason why there was so much shock last week. Because American women and quite frankly the men who care about them wonder what this means,” she told Yahoo News.
She said it would behoove the president-elect and his team to be mindful of the credibility gap he has on these issues before taking any kind of action that could be viewed as a rollback.
“Women will be paying very close attention,” she said.