Looks like Al Franken might end up with the last laugh. An aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) resigned last summer after alleging that the #MeToo advocate ignored her complaints about sexual harassment and intimidation by “one of Gillibrand’s closest aides,” according to Politico. The woman accused Gillibrand of rank hypocrisy in failing to live up to the standards Gillibrand publicly espouses, the very standards she used to chase Franken out of the Senate:
In July, the female staffer alleged one of Gillibrand’s closest aides — who was a decade her senior and married — repeatedly made unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her. She also said the male aide regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires.
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. …
“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the woman wrote to Gillibrand in a letter sent on her final day to the senator’s personal email account. Copied were general counsel Keith Castaldo and Fassler, who is now managing the senator’s presidential bid.
“I trusted and leaned on this statement that you made: ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable.’ 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,” the woman wrote.
At first, Gillibrand defended herself to Politico over the allegation against Abbas Malik, saying that the letter contained “clear inaccuracies” and contradicted other statements made by the woman before her resignation. Her office insisted that a “serious investigation” took place and that they applied “appropriate accountability … every step of the way” as a result. “I told her we loved her at the time,” Gillibrand’s statement declared, “and the same is true today.”
Is that the case, however? Abbas Malik kept his job after the investigation and the departure of the female staffer last summer. In fact, Malik stayed on the job until just a couple of weeks ago, when Politico did its own “serious investigation.” That turned up a pattern of harassment in the office:
Two weeks ago, however, POLITICO presented the office with its own findings of additional allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct by Malik. Among the claims were that he made a “joke” about rape to a female colleague — a person whom the office had failed to contact last summer despite repeated urgings by Malik’s accuser to reach out to the person.
Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and dismissed Malik last week. Malik did not respond to requests for comment.
So much for that “serious investigation.” It’s tough to find bad conduct when no one bothers to talk to potential witnesses to it, especially those that an alleged victim identifies as corroborating witnesses. Small wonder the woman walked off the job. Gillibrand and her office apparently had less interest in creating a safe environment for women than in conducting a CYA attempt to keep Malik on the job no matter how he treated Gillibrand’s female staffers.
That’s hardly a #MeToo attitude. Gillibrand faces new questions now about why she protected Malik right up until Politico did her job for her, and those questions couldn’t have come at a worse time. Gillibrand had hoped to launch a presidential campaign based in large part on her supposed leadership role in combating sexual harassment in the workplace. As Mika Brzezinski and Adrienne Elrod discuss, that’s practically the only premise for her presidential ambitions in 2020. “She’s really played this up,” Elrod says and cites the Franken case in particular. Will anyone be talking with Franken to get his thoughts on these developments? Stay tuned … but likely not at MSNBC.