#MeToo senator denies mishandling complaint


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Senator Gillibrand announced her presidential campaign on 16 January

A Democratic presidential hopeful who has made women’s empowerment key to her 2020 campaign is facing claims she ignored misconduct in her own office.

A former female aide to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told Politico she was sexually harassed by an older male staff member last summer.

After she complained, she said the senior aide was disciplined but not fired, and top staff blamed her.

The accuser submitted a scathing letter of resignation.

According to Politico, the young woman wrote in her letter to the New York senator: “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.”

Mrs Gillibrand’s office has acknowledged they did not reply to the former aide, saying her letter contained “clear inaccuracies”.

In a statement to BBC News on Monday, the senator said: “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.

“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.”

According to Politico, the senior male aide allegedly made inappropriate comments and persistent, unwanted sexual advances to the aide, and misogynistic comments about other women.

The alleged perpetrator, who was married, allegedly began the verbal harassment immediately after he received a promotion, according to his accuser.

Once the accuser – who is reportedly in her mid-20s – complained, the senator’s office launched an internal investigation.

The result was that the alleged perpetrator’s promotion was revoked, but he kept his job.

The accuser told Politico two senior colleagues, including a woman, sided with the alleged harasser, telling her it was a “he said, she said” case, and suggesting she had misinterpreted his behaviour.

A spokeswoman for the senator said the male aide was fired last week after the office “learned of never-before reported and deeply troubling comments” allegedly made by him.

Politico said the sacking came only after it presented the senator’s office with additional evidence of his alleged past misconduct towards other female Gillibrand staffers.

Mrs Gillibrand is among the most outspoken of female senators against sexual harassment.

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