A former staff employee of New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand resigned last summer in protest of Gillibrand’s handling of her sexual assault complaint according to a new report this morning in POLITICO.
The harassment complaint was lodged against one of the presidential candidate’s top senatorial aides.
The report says that the unidentified female staffer claims the older male aide “repeatedly made unwanted advances and sexist comments about other women in the office.”
Gillibrand is not only a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate but also has been one of the most vocal defenders of sexual harassment victims and a leader in #MeToo movement. She has pushed for reforms in Washington that would help change the culture while also helping sexual harassment victims.
These new accusations that her office mishandled a sexual harassment complaint will likely cast a shadow on her candidacy.
According to POLITICO, the former staff member wrote a letter to Gillibrand, her chief of staff and her general counsel. She said that she did file a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment by Abbas Malik, a special assistant to Gillibrand. Malik worked as the senator’s driver and adviser on military issues.
The female staffer wrote that the investigation into her complaints was completed too quickly. She also said that other staffers handling it told her it “was a series of misinterpretations and too much of a ‘he said she said’ situation.” Therefore nothing was done, and there was no followup.
In the letter the woman wrote that she offered her resignation “because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled.”Neither Gillibrand nor other staff ever responded to the letter, according to POLITICO.
“Your office chose to go against your public belief that women shouldn’t accept sexual harassment in any form and portrayed my experience as a misinterpretation instead of what it actually was: harassment and ultimately, intimidation,” she reportedly wrote in the letter.
Gillibrand defended her office’s handling of the situation in a statement to Politico.
“As I have long said, when allegations are made in the workplace, we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability,” Gillibrand said. “That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year. I told her that we loved her at the time and the same is true today.”
She also said that the female staffer’s letter “contained clear inaccuracies and was a major departure from the sentiments she shared with senior staff in her final days in the office,” and that the senator did not respond because the matter was “already settled.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.