The office of 2020 presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand is again facing accusations of improperly handling sexual harassment allegations among its staff. It is the second allegation of this type to emerge in the last ten days.
An investigation by the Washington Examiner published Monday night claims that Gillibrand’s communications director, Marc Brumer, was kept on the payroll for three months after resigning for making inappropriate remarks.
The reporting comes at an awkward time for the Democratic Senator, who has prominently highlighted her leadership role in the #MeToo movement as part of her presidential bid.
On March 11th, her campaign was rocked by a POLITICO story about a former female staffer’s experience working for Gillibrand. In July 2018 the aide quit her job in protest of how her claims of sexual harassment had been handled.
Marc Brumer resigns, but kept on payroll
Communications director Marc Brumer resigned from Gillibrand’s staff in the Spring of 2017. According to two members of staff speaking to the Examiner, he made at least one remark that distressed a female scheduler.
Despite Brumer’s resignation, he was kept on the payroll for roughly three months.
The scheduler is understood to have left her job before Brumer’s time on Gillibrand’s staff ended.
Speaking to the Examiner, Brumer confirmed elements of the story, saying, “As I said at the time, I am sorry that words used during a heated debate offended a colleague. By then, I had already been planning my departure and preparing to seek another opportunity. I resigned and ensured a smooth transition.”
A spokesperson for Kirsten Gillibrand’s office has downplayed any impropriety in the handling of the complaint.
“Here are the facts,” the spokesperson told the Examiner, “this employee was reprimanded immediately, he offered his resignation and it was accepted. He was never in the office again and was told to work from home to transition his responsibilities after his deputy was elevated to his job and began three months of paid maternity leave.”
Previous #MeToo problem for Kirsten Gillibrand
Yesterday’s allegations could pose a challenge for Gillibrand because of their similarity to a story initially reported by POLITICO last Monday.
In July 2018, just as Gillibrand was pressing fellow legislators to update Congressional processes for sexual harassment claims, a female aide resigned in protest over her treatment following her own #MeToo allegations.
“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the staffer wrote in a letter sent 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.”
The staffer’s claims centered on longtime Kirsten Gillibrand aide Abbas Malik, who kept his job after his accuser’s resignation. Malik was dismissed in February 2019, but only after POLITICO had contacted Gillibrand’s office as part of its investigation.
In both instances, the women who have made claims of sexual harassment while working on Gillibrand’s staff have left her employment in advance of their alleged harassers.
Gillibrand defends office’s handing of complaints
Speaking at a town hall hosted by MSNBC last night, Senator Gillibrand defended the actions taken by her office staff relating to the Abbas Malik case.
After describing Malik’s actions as derogatory comments that did not rise to the level of sexual harassment, she expressed her sympathy for the victim.
“In terms of my own office, the woman who came forward, she was believed, her allegations were taken seriously,” she said. “This employee was dearly valued. I told her she that she was loved, by us, by our office, by me personally.”
The Washington Examiner investigation had been published less than half an hour before the town hall aired. Its contents were not discussed during the program.