AP NEWS

Kirsten Gillibrand chided for handling of aide’s sexual harassment claims: Report

March 11, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, has come under fire for her handling of a sexual harassment complaint in her office despite her campaign’s focus on fighting against such harassment.

According to a Politico report, a former female aide said she resigned in protest after fellow Gillibrand aide Abbas Malik, a married man 10 years her senior, made advances on her last summer.

The former aide, who Politico gave anonymity for fear of retaliation, also said Mr. Malik would make misogynistic and crude comments toward female colleagues, including a “joke” about rape toward a different female employee.

Three weeks after filing a harassment complaint and a complaint that the man retaliated against her for speaking out, she resigned, telling Ms. Gillibrand in a letter on her final day that she was leaving due to “how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled.”

“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 OK. None of it is acceptable,’” she said. “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.”

In a statement to Politico, Ms. Gillibrand’s office said that “challenges” led to not taking action on the former aide’s complaint.

“These are challenges that affect all of our nation’s workplaces, including mine, and the question is whether or not they are taken seriously,” she said. “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.

“That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year,” the senator said. “I told her that we loved her at the time and the same is true today.”

Mr. Malik initially kept his job, but after Politico presented its findings, Ms. Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and he was dismissed sometime last week. He did not comment to Politico on the story.

Another woman reported Mr. Malik “called her fat and unattractive to her face” and said one woman “couldn’t get laid unless she was raped.” Two other staffers said Malik would insult the looks of women in the office, make misogynistic jokes and rate the women who came to interview for jobs on their looks.

Gillibrand’s office said it punished Mr. Malik and revoked a promotion due to “unspecified inappropriate comments.”