PARK CITY, Utah This will teach you a lesson.
Those six words lit a fire under Gloria Allred, the renowned womens rights attorney, that burns brightly to this day.
To understand Allredher motivations, her fears, her single-minded pursuit of justiceyou have to know her story. Its an eye-opener, and one that few of her (mostly) male detractors, who have taken to dismissively branding her an ambulance chaser or media whore, have even scratched the surface of.
Im all about empowerment, she says. Words will never stop me.
In the mid-60s, Allred split from her husband after his bipolar disorder began posing a threat to their childs well-being. A single mother, she moved with her young daughter, Lisa, from Philadelphia to sunny California. Shortly thereafter, and needing to blow off some steam, she took a trip with one of her girlfriends to Acapulco. There, she met a striking physician who was to take her out for a night on the townbut first, he said, he had to make some house calls. He guided Allred into a house, only no one was home. The man brandished a gun. Then he raped her.
It gets worse. The attack left her pregnant, and it being the 1960s, a safe, legal abortion wasnt an option. So Allred was forced into a back-alley abortion. She went alone. The procedure left her hemorrhaging, and, losing considerable blood, she checked herself into the hospital, where she was placed in a ward with numerous other women whod received the same procedure. Many of them didnt make it. As Allred lay in recovery, the nurse tending to her looked her dead in the eye and said, This will teach you a lesson.
Allred has, in the decades since, became not just a champion for women, but for minorities, too. Shes taken on the Catholic Church, the Friars Club, the TSA, you name it. In 1995, she became a household name after representing the family of Nicole Brown Simpson during O.J.s murder trial; in 2004, she filed the first lawsuit to challenge the same-sex marriage laws in California, on behalf of her longtime pals Robin Taylor and Diane Olson. (The California Supreme Court ruled in their favor, setting an important legal precedent in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage.)
And at 76, she shows no signs of slowing down. In recent years, Allred, whos been dubbed the master of the press conference, has garnered headlines for representing 33 of Bill Cosbys sexual-assault accusers; several women accusing the director Roman Polanski, film executive Harvey Weinstein, and politician Roy Moore of sexual-assault; and three women whove accused Donald Trump of sexual-assault. Shes currently representing The Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos in a defamation suit against President Trump, after he called her a liar for claiming to have been assaulted by him at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007the same hotel where he allegedly rendezvoused with porn star Stormy Daniels.
Oh, and if that werent enough, shes the subject of an inspiring new documentary Seeing Allred, that debuted at this years Sundance Film Festival and will be out Feb. 9 on Netflix. The film, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, chronicles Allreds journey from working-class Philly to celebrity attorney.
I sat down with Allred at Sundance to discuss the doc and her storied career.
Its interesting that this documentary is premiering at Sundance, because this is the place where Rose McGowan alleges that Harvey Weinstein raped her.
I represent numerous persons who allege they are victims of Harvey Weinstein, and some of them allege that they were the victims of inappropriate conduct here as well. At Sundance. But I cant discuss them further.
The McGowan episode is said to have happened in 1997. Its 21 years later. One of the major fest themes this year is courageous women, with documentaries on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Fonda, and yourself, and the Respect Rally that you spoke at. There seems to have been a seismic shift both at this festival and beyond with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movementsit seems to have a lot to do with the election of President Trump?
I think this wave has been building for many years. Women have been speaking out long before the #MeToo movementalthough thats been importantand many of them have been speaking out with me because they want their voices to be heard, and because they demand change. But I think the wave has become a tsunami, and were never going to be the same again. Were not going to be silent anymore, because the cost of silence, they have assessed, is greater than the cost of speaking out. Its really harmed them emotionally in many cases, its harmed them economically, and in some cases they allege theyve been harmed physically as a result of trying to keep all that rage and anger about what theyve been forced to suffer within them. So I encourage them not to tranquilize themselves out of their anger and their rage but to take that as a source of energy and have it help them move forward in a positive, constructive way. It may be too late for them to sue or too late for law enforcement to assist them in any way, but its not too late for them to speak out, to demand legislative changes, to run for office, and to fight for change.
But the election of Trump seems to be the thing that lit the fuse, no? When you elevate a man to the highest office in the land whos been accused of sexual-assault by 19 women, and whos on tape bragging about assaulting womenand whos said very ugly things to you, when he said youd be very very impressed with his manhood…
Yeah, well, you might notice who prevailed in that battle. We demanded that [trans contestant Jenna Talackova] be put back in the beauty pageant and to remove the rule that you have to be a naturally-born female, and he did put her back and he did remove the rule, and of course ultimately said he was going to do that anyway.
And I meana year or two later, after we won that battle, I happened to see him at Fox News in the green room. He was on a show before I was. I was sitting there with another client and about to come on a show, and he comes in, and I thought, oh my goodness, whats he going to say to my client? So he says, Oh, Gloria. I heard you were here. He turns to my client and says, Miss so-and-so, I just want you to know: you have the best lawyer. This woman is relentless. She will never stop until she wins you the justice you think you deserve, so never, ever fire her because you will never get anyone better. I was astounded, given that wed just won that battle. And Ive never seen him since.
Whats the status of the fundraising for Summer Zervos defamation suit against President Trump? Id read that you were at $30,000 in donations at the beginning of this month.
Well, were actually not engaged in fundraising. What we have done is weve put on our webpage that if people want to contribute, they can. But weve done no fundraising activities, mailers or any of that. So many people have asked us if they can donate, and where they can donate, and we certainly welcome it because the costs of litigating a caseforget the fees, Im not charging for my feesagainst the President of the United States and his billionaire friends, some of whom may or may not be contributing to him, this is a huge endeavor. We need the support of the public, if they wish to provide it, but Im not going out actively soliciting [donations], because Im very busy with the cases.
What did you think about The New York Times piece late last month? It accused you and your daughter of partisanshipbasically, a left-wing conspiracyin receiving donations from prominent Democratic allies, like David Brock, in pursuing lawsuits against Trump.
I remember the piece youre talking about. It mixed up a lot of things that really werent related. Let me be clear: David Brock hasnt contributed one cent to us.
That money went to your daughter, Lisa Bloom.
Well, I dont know what shes received or what she hasnt received, but not one cent went to me or any of my clients. And thats all I can say.
How confident are you that Summer Zervos defamation case against Trump will go forward, and that youll be able to depose the President of the United States?
Were waiting for the courts decision. Ill say that I am hopeful, but there are very complicated legal issues involved. Weve made our arguments, hes made his motion to dismiss the arguments, weve made our arguments in opposition, theyve replied, and now were waiting to see what the court will do. The judge appears to be a very bright judge who asked the right questions from both sides. Its going to be a battle.
Trumps defense is interesting here. His team is arguing that what Trump says is protected by the First Amendment, and that the statements he makes at rallies to rouse people dont have to be entirely truthful.
Im glad you mentioned what you just said, because the reason we filed this lawsuit is because we believe the truth matters. Thats the reason. We believe truth matters, and we believe that if a person believesor has reason to believethat they were defamed, they should have a right to pursue the person that defamed them.
Has President Trumpor any of his intermediariessettled or attempted to settle with any of your clients?
Not to my knowledge.
What are your thoughts on Stormy Daniels reported $130,000 settlement with Trump? The whole situation is interesting, because Trumps longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, is alleged to have created a company in order to transfer the settlement funds surreptitiously.
Ill just say that I did not represent her in any settlement, and therefore I have no comment if there was a settlement. But its definitelyan interesting issue. But I will say, with the film, I hope that people who see Seeing Allred understand that they can take on in their own lives people who are powerful that have hurt them. Whether these people are celebrities in the political world, the entertainment world, the sports world, the education world, they religious world, they can take this as a teaching moment and say, wait, I can stand up and do something about the injustice that has been inflicted upon me by this powerful person. That, for me, is what its all about.
I wanted to ask about your daughter, Lisa Bloom. Theres a very brief scene in the film that mentions how she worked for accused predators Harvey Weinstein and Roy Price, and it was later revealed how she provided opposition research in response to Ronan Farrows queries in an attempt to smear Weinsteins alleged victims. What are your thoughts on her decision?
It seemed, at least to me, like she got blinded a bit by the Hollywood element. Harvey Weinstein was opting her book for a potential film or television project. A similar thing happened with Hillary Clinton, who was developing a project with Weinstein up until the sexual-assault allegations surfaced.
My daughter has her own law firm. She decides who shes taking on as clients and who shes not. I have nothing to do with those decisions, and she doesnt decide who I take as clients or dont take as clients. So all I can say is I love her, I support hershes a wonderful lawyerand I have no comment on that other than to say Im proud of my daughter, and shes doing what she can to help victims.
Once you learn the full breadth of your story, it seems extra insidious when you see powerful menand it is mainly mencriticizing you, a person whos been assaulted, for primarily defending women who have been assaulted, harassed or discriminated against by men.
I will say that I do want to give credit and recognition to many men who come up to me and say, I have daughters. Thank you. I know youre waging this fight for my daughters. I do think that many men who care about their daughters understand that, but look, its about education. Theres always going to be some individuals who are not well informed, who want women to be subordinated, who want women to be denied their rights, and who want women to live as second-class citizens. But Im about real change. Im about empowering persons who are victims and minorities who are denied their rights, so I just think of the brave suffragists before me who fought in the United States for 72 years just to win the right to vote. I know what herstory is. What they went through was far more of an act of courage than what Ive been engaging in for 42 years, and they were not deterred by being called names or being accused of falsehoods. That doesnt deter me, either.