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Trump Campaign Puts Forth Cousin of Accuser Who Doubts Her Story of Sexual Misconduct

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Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump has unleashed his own form of evidence to prove his innocence amid claims of his unwanted sexual advances.

In a statement released by Trump’s campaign Friday evening, the cousin of one of the women accusing the GOP nominee of sexual misconduct says he is “completely shocked and bewildered” to learn about her account with Trump.

“I am completely shocked and bewildered by my cousin, Summer Zervos, and her press conference today. Ever since she was on The Apprentice she has had nothing but glowing things to say about Mr. Trump,” John Barry of Mission Viejo, California, said about his cousin Summer Zervos, who recalled her encounter with Trump during a press conference on Friday.

“For almost a decade, my cousin would talk about how much she looked up to Mr. Trump and viewed him as an inspiration – a success story she wanted to copy. Summer would also talk about how kind and caring Mr. Trump was on the show, and how he would even visit children in hospitals without telling the press,” Barry explained in the statement. 

Zervos competed on the fifth season of The Apprentice in 2007. After she was fired, Trump allegedly invited her to his office in New York City, where he kissed her on the lips upon arrival and once again when she was leaving. Then she had another meet up with the real estate mogul in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he kissed her yet again and “thrusted his genitals” against her, according to Zervos.

“She has praised the good things he’s done for her life, and in fact she converted her friends and our family to become Trump supporters even though we’ve never been active in politics before,” Barry continued in the statement. “That was until Summer invited Mr. Trump to her restaurant during the primary and he said no. I think Summer wishes she could still be on reality TV, and in an effort to get that back she’s saying all of these negative things about Mr. Trump. That’s not how she talked about him before.”

Adding, “I can only imagine that Summer’s actions today are nothing more than an attempt to regain the spotlight at Mr. Trump’s expense, and I don’t think it reflects well.”

In response to Barry’s statement, Zervos’ lawyer Gloria Allred tells PEOPLE: “John Barry is a huge Trump supporter. He was employed at Summer’s family restaurant until several months ago when his employment ended. Since then he has expressed hostility and ill will towards Summer. Given the rifts in the family relationships which existed even prior to Summer making her statement today, and given his support for Mr. Trump, Summer does not intend to create further rifts by commenting further on Mr. Barry.”

And on her client’s claims against Trump, Allred said that Zervos confided in a friend who can back up her account.

Today we were contacted by Ann Russo who remembers that years earlier Summer confided in Ann about what Summer said Mr. Trump did to her,” Allred said. “Ann believes that Summer is an honest person with very high moral and ethical standards.  This is now a third person who has corroborated that Summer told people who were close to her what she alleges Mr. Trump did to her.”

Trump, 70, responded to Zervos’ story on Friday, issuing a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“I vaguely remember Ms. Zervos as one of the many contestants on The Apprentice over the years,” he said. “To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. That is not who I am as a person, and it is not how I’ve conducted my life. In fact, Ms. Zervos continued to contact me for help, emailing my office on April 14th of this year asking that I visit her restaurant in California.”

Along with Barry’s statement, Trump’s campaign also released the email that Zervos had sent him in April. “I am in a unique situation being that I am the only former Apprentice who operates a business where Mr. Trump’s supporters can walk in, express their admiration for him and inquire about my experience,” the email stated. “I would greatly appreciate reconnecting at this time. He will know my intentions are genuine. Thank you, Summer Zervos.”

Zervos is one of ten women — including a former PEOPLE reporter — who haven spoken out against Trump, claiming they were involved in incidents of sexual assault or misconduct at the hands of the Republican presidential candidate. On Friday, Trump said his accusers are all lying, telling the crowd at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina: “It’s a phony deal, I have no idea who these women are, and I think you all know I have no idea.”