Clinton Says She Regrets Keeping Staffer Accused Of Harassment In 2008
Hillary Clinton responded Tuesday night to revelations that she kept a senior adviser on her campaign staff in 2008, even after the adviser was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a subordinate colleague.
"The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn't," Clinton wrote online, in a seeming nod to the #MeToo movement of the last year.
Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, published a long statement explaining her decision on Facebook, less than 20 minutes before President Trump entered the House gallery to deliver his first State of the Union address.
The response came four days after The New York Times first reported that Clinton opted to keep the adviser, Burns Strider, on her staff, even though Clinton's campaign manager at the time recommended that Clinton fire him.
Strider was Clinton's faith adviser during the 2008 campaign and is the founder of the American Values Network, a Christian lobbying organization.
While with Clinton's campaign, Strider was accused of sexual misconduct by a 30-year-old woman who shared an office with him.
"She told a campaign official that Mr. Strider had rubbed her shoulders inappropriately, kissed her on the forehead and sent her a string of suggestive emails," according to three former campaign officials who spoke with The Times.
Both Patti Solis Doyle, Clinton's campaign manager at the time, and Jess O'Connell, Clinton's national director of operations, recommended that Clinton fire Strider. Instead, however, she docked him several weeks' pay, ordered him to undergo counseling and moved the woman who accused him to a new job under a new supervisor.
"He needed to be punished, change his behavior, and understand why his actions were wrong. The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe," Clinton wrote Tuesday. "I thought both could happen without him losing his job."
While the campaign received no more complaints about Strider in 2008, he was later fired from a job with the independent pro-Clinton group Correct the Record for "workplace issues, including allegations that he harassed a young female aide," The Times reported.
Clinton's 1,500-plus-word Facebook response briefly touched on what she should have done differently but spent more time defending her decision, saying the way sexual harassment is dealt with has drastically changed in the decade since this incident.
Clinton also received criticism recently for her slow response in responding to the bombshell allegations, reported last year by The Times and The New Yorker, against Harvey Weinstein, a Democratic donor and fundraiser accused of sexual assault among other inappropriate behavior toward women.
In her online posting Tuesday, Clinton also mentioned The New York Times' own controversy in the #MeToo movement, without mentioning reporter Glenn Thrush by name.
The Times decided to suspend Thrush and take him off the White House beat, rather than fire him after Vox published an article in November detailing accusations against him.
"While we are revisiting whether my decision from a decade ago was harsh enough, many employers would be well served to take actions at least as severe when confronted with problems now — including the very media outlet that broke this story," Clinton wrote. "[The New York Times] recently opted to suspend and reinstate one of their journalists who exhibited similarly inappropriate behavior, rather than terminate him."
Clinton had responded on Twitter after The Times story first published last week, saying she was "dismayed" when the incident occurred.
Both last week and Tuesday, Clinton said she spoke with the woman involved, and she emphasized that the woman agreed with her handling of the incident.
"She expressed appreciation that she worked on a campaign where she knew she could come forward without fear," Clinton said. "The fact that the woman involved felt heard and supported reinforced my belief that the process worked — at least to a degree."
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