Sexual harassment allegations shadow race for GOP chair
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — More accusations about sexual harassment of women by Pennsylvania Republican Party officials are emerging in the days before party members will meet to elect a new chair.
The acting chair, Bernadette Comfort, is being accused by GOP activists of knowing about and ignoring complaints of sexual harassment by state party officials.
Through a party spokesman, Comfort declined an interview about the matter Thursday, but said in a statement that it is not true that anyone alerted her about inappropriate behavior and asked her for help.
Comfort is running for chair with support from key figures close to President Donald Trump’s campaign, including Donald Trump Jr . She was expected to be opposed at Saturday’s meeting in Hershey by the state GOP’s former general counsel, Lawrence Tabas, who was backed by pro-Trump committee members in 2017 when he narrowly lost the chairman’s election to Val DiGiorgio.
The fight for the party’s leadership comes as Democratic energy in the presidential battleground is raising questions about Trump’s ability to replicate his stunning 2016 win in a state Republicans hadn’t carried for nearly two decades.
Democrats animated by an anti-Trump fervor have since scored big victories in Pennsylvania’s elections for governor, U.S. senator, Congress and the state Legislature.
DiGiorgio resigned from the chairmanship last month after a Philadelphia City Council candidate accused him of sexually harassing her. DiGiorgio denied it and said their interaction amounted to “mutual consensual communications.”
A fresh allegation emerged Thursday from the former chairwoman of the Young Republicans of Allegheny County. In a post on Facebook , the woman, Anissa Coury, said she was a victim of DiGiorgio’s “unwanted, wildly inappropriate sexual advances.”
“To make matters worse, when I approached Bernie Comfort regarding the situation, it didn’t seem to be of particular interest to her,” Coury wrote. In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Coury said Comfort “couldn’t have cared less,” about her concerns.
DiGiorgio did not return a telephone message about Coury’s comments.
Separately, a GOP state committee member, Lynne Ryan, has circulated an email to state party members questioning what Comfort knew about complaints about DiGiorgio and another Republican Party staffer, WESA-FM reported .
In an email reply to state committee members, Comfort said she advocated for DiGiorgio to resign “when he informed me of his behavior.” DiGiorgio privately handled another allegation by an unidentified woman against an unidentified party staff aide without telling Comfort, she wrote.