Transgender intern: Rep. Lujan Grisham sent ‘fake’ letter
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A transgender former intern to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico denies writing a letter of apology after she was fired from the Congresswoman’s office.
Riley Del Rey told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she believes the fraudulent letter that was circulated by Grisham’s office is an attempt to discredit her charge that she was unlawfully fired for being transgender.
Del Rey acknowledged drafting a different letter that cited a “severe lack of communication” as the reason for her ouster but said she was pressured by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to rewrite it.
But Del Rey said she never signed off on the letter that apologizes for the “shame” she brought to the congresswoman’s office.
“I acknowledge that my behavior was unprofessional and unacceptable. I profusely apologize if I brought about shame, embarrassment, or worry to the office as it was never my intention,” according to a March 2015 letter attributed to Riley Golightly, who also goes by Riley Del Rey.
Del Rey said that is a forgery.
“It’s literally fake news,” Del Rey said. “I’ve never, ever seen it before.”
Del Rey said she’s filing a new ethics complaint against Lujan Grisham over the fabricated letter.
Nathan Schelble, Deputy Chief of Staff for Lujan Grisham, said the office stands by the apology letter.
“The apology letter we received was sent to us by Riley’s employer, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute,” Schelble said. “We have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the letter.”
In a statement, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute denied the letter was a forgery and said Del Rey “has repeatedly been dishonest” with reporters about her departure from her internship.
“Ms. Del Rey was not terminated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but rather by CHCI, and the apology letter sent to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham following Ms. Del Rey’s unprofessional behavior was indeed from Ms. Del Rey and fully warranted given the situation,” the statement said.
The institute did not provide details about the alleged unprofessional behavior.
Del Rey said she was fired from her Lujan Grisham internship three years ago over her transgender identity and was coming forward with her story because of the wave of U.S. news reports about harassment and discrimination.
Del Rey alleged institute supervisors discussed her physical appearance with her after she began working in Washington, D.C., suggesting for example that her heels were too high or her hemline too short. She said her clothing was professional.
She said the organization’s concerns culminated about three weeks into her internship during a meeting with staff from the institute and members of Lujan Grisham’s office. Del Rey said she believed that staff in the congresswoman’s office had become aware that she is transgender.
Schelble said the congresswoman’s office did not know that Riley was transgender during her internship with CHCI, nor would anyone in the office ever discriminate against anyone due to their gender identity.
Lujan Grisham is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in New Mexico.
One of her Democratic primary opponents, Jeff Apodaca, said Monday that U.S. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should investigate claims Lujan Grisham discriminated against the transgender intern.
The allegations come a month after Lujan Grisham told Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla to abandon his bid for lieutenant governor over decades-old harassment claims.
Padilla later quit the race.
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