According to POLITICO, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the most outspoken proponents of the #MeToo campaign, reportedly refused to fire a male staffer accused of sexual harassment until the political news outlet got ahold of the story.
In a lengthy exposé, POLITICO notes that Gillibrand, one of four 2020 Democratic female presidential candidates so far, has made ending sexual harassment of women in the workplace a cornerstone of both her last two years in office and her 2020 campaign, capitalizing on efforts to enact stronger federal protections against sexual harassment among congressional staff.
In the meantime, POLITICO claims a female staffer on Gillibrand’s own team actually resigned over sexual harassment issues last summer, claiming the senator’s office did nothing to address her complaints that a senior staffer named Abbas Malik, who was 10 years older than her and married, had repeatedly harassed her other females in the office.
Unfortunately for this woman, it looks like Malik was pretty high up in Gillibrand’s office. Here’s POLITICO’s description of him:
He became such a constant presence in Gillibrand’s life — he had a set of keys to her home and often drove her children to school with her — that some staffers dubbed him “the keeper of her purse.”
Needless to say, the female staffer ultimately resigned – and Malik kept his job.
“Less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and subsequently claiming that the man retaliated against her for doing so, the woman told chief of staff Jess Fassler that she was resigning because of the office’s handling of the matter. She did not have another job lined up,” POLITICO claims. The outlet adds that after giving three week’s notice, the woman reportedly wrote a letter explaining she was leaving because her complaints of sexual misconduct had repeatedly gone unaddressed.
Neither the senator nor her staff responded to the letter, POLITICO reports.
But that’s where things get even more interesting. After POLITICO reached out to Gillibrand’s office about the allegations themselves, Gillibrand responded by saying they had looked into the matter and found the 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.”
"These are challenges that affect all of our nation’s workplaces, including mine, and the question is whether or not they are taken seriously. 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.
But POLITICO’s own investigation uncovered a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against Malik, including jokes he’d made to another female staffer about rape – an allegation that Gillibrand’s office reportedly failed to look into even after being alerted to it by the staffer who’d quit. Another staffer said Malik regularly called her “fat and unattractive,” joked about sexual abuse, and made comments that another female staffer who he said “couldn’t get laid unless she was raped.” Others reported Malik had made regular unwanted sexual advances toward them.
After handing over their findings and asking for an explanation just two weeks ago, Gillibrand’s office finally fired the guy in a move that, on the surface at least, looks an awful lot like an attempt to avoid some really bad press.
According to POLITICO’s own assessment, the whole debacle “suggests a disconnect between the senator’s categorical public stance and her office’s private actions.”
Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill, huh? Who'da thunk?