New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful who built her reputation as an advocate of the #MeToo movement, declined to fire a male aide accused of sexual harassment by a female colleague, causing the female aide to resign in protest, Politico reports.
In July, a woman staffer in her mid-20s alleged that one of Gillibrand’s closest aides -- married longtime staffer Abbas Malik -- made “unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her,” Politico reported, adding that she also claimed the Malik “regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires.”
The unidentified aide says that her allegation caused the Malik to “retaliate against her.” Three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment, the aide resigned over the office’s handling of her allegations.
“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the aide wrote to Gillibrand on her final day.
“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.”
She told Politico that neither the senator nor any of her aides responded to the email.
Gillibrand fired Malik after reporters came calling:
Gillibrand issued a statement to Politico defending her office’s handling of the allegations.
“ 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.”
Politico reports that two weeks before publishing the report, the outlet presented Gillibrand’s office with their own findings of allegations against 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,” Politico reported. “Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and dismissed Malik last week.”
Ex-aide says she was belittled:
The female aide who brought the allegations told Politico that she was mistreated by Gillibrand’s office after coming forward.
“When I had the courage to speak up about my harasser, I was belittled by her office and treated like an inconvenience,” the woman told Politico. “She kept a harasser on her staff until it proved politically untenable for her to do so.”
The aide said that Gillibrand’s speeches and statements about fighting for women “belies her own experience,” Politico reported.