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Politics

Gillibrand Defends Her Handling Of Sexual Harassment Claims Against Former Aide

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Photo Credit: Rebecca Hammel, U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

Presidential hopeful and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, an outspoken advocate of the #MeToo movement , had a female aide resign last summer over alleged sexual harassment complaints.

The aide resigned in protest over the handling of her sexual harassment complaint by the senator’s office, according to multiple reports.

The aide alleges that an older, married man in the office, made repeated unwelcome advances after receiving a promotion to a supervisory role over her.

According to reports, weeks after making the complaint, the staffer resigned due to the office’s handling of the matter. The man who made the alleged disparaging remarks to her was not initially fired, but received a demotion for making inappropriate remarks.

“After the 2016 election, I was devastated by the choice that America made, and I felt driven to work for a politician who would fight for women’s rights at a time when they were being openly threatened in our country,” the staffer wrote in her resignation letter, which was acquired by Politico.

“Sen. Gillibrand, you were the public servant I wanted to work for, because of your strong stance on sexual harassment in the workplace, committee to work as a champion for women and desire for transparency in politics.

Neither Gillibrand nor her staff reportedly responded to the resignation letter.

“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 OK. None of it is acceptable,”’ the aide continued. “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 male aide, Abbas Malik, was ultimately fired following a new investigation found additional allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

“Because the office did find unprofessional behavior that violated office policy, including derogatory comments, the office took strong disciplinary action against the employee in question, and he was given a final warning,” spokesperson Whitney Mitchell Brennan said in a statement.

“Recently, we learned of never-before-reported and deeply troubling comments allegedly made by this same individual. The office immediately began another investigation and interviewed relevant witnesses, which has led to the office terminating the employee from staff last week."

In response, the senator stated that her office is not exempt from the “many challenges that affect all of our nation’s workplaces.

“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,” she 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.”

Gillibrand announced her intention to run for president in 2020 during an appearance on CBS’-TV's “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” last month, throwing her hat into what is expected to be a crowded ring challenging President Donald Trump.

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