Clinton adviser Burns Strider kept on after sexual harassment accusations

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Burns Strider Hillary Clinton
Burns Strider photo: Michael.a.chiulli; Hillary Clinton photo: Gage Skidmore

Hillary Clinton kept on her “faith outreach adviser” Burns Strider during her 2008 presidential campaign after an internal organizational investigation determined he had sexually harassed a female colleague. Accused by a 30 year old campaign worker of rubbing her shoulders inappropriately, kissing her on the forehead and sending her suggestive emails, senor staff advised Clinton to drop Strider, but the she refused. Instead Strider was docked a few week’s pay, and the campaign worker was moved sideways into a different role.

Keep the faith adviser – Burns Strider

Little known outside insider political circles, faith advisers make introductions between candidates and key figures in religious communities, and help their clients craft language and policies to appeal to them. According to the New York Times, the anonymous campaign worker first complained to Clinton’s national director of operations, Jess O’Connell (current CEO of the Democratic National Committee). O’Connell recommended to Clinton’s campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, that Burns Strider be fired. Solis Doyle agreed and made the same recommendation to Clinton. For reasons Clinton has not addressed publicly, she said she did not want to fire him and he was kept on staff.

A brief investigation was held and Burns Strider was fined, and instructed to attend counselling. According to New York Times sources he did not attend these sessions.

Meanwhile the still unnamed staffer was moved to a different role where she would not have to report to Mr Strider. The story has remained quiet since the 2008 race partly because of Non Disclosure Agreements – increasingly controversial legal instruments used to keep potentially embarrassing revelations quiet – and favorites of both Republican and Democratic party campaigns. The social change brought about by the #MeToo campaign following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, however, appears to have created enough pressure for insiders to begin to break their silence.

Clinton proud of sexually harassed staffer

In a bizarre and possibly ill-advised public relations move, Clinton has responded to the scandal by saying how proud she was of the sexually harassed staffer who she shunted out of the way rather than take action against Burns Strider.

Yesterday she tweeted. “A story appeared today about something that happened in 2008. I was dismayed when it occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed.

“I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard.”

This call may have been cold comfort ten years after the event. And after having seen her accuser get a slap on the hand, and then being moved into a new position and told to keep quiet, it seems unlikely the harassed campaign worker will feel like being heard counts for much in Clinton’s book.

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