Not 1, not 2 but THREE top Democrat Presidential candidates for 2020 are embroiled in #MeToo scandals.
While Kirstin Gillibrand was one of the most vocal in asking for her ex-colleague Al Franken to resign after a photo surfaced of him groping LeAnn Tweeden, her handling of a #MeToo case in her own office has been a disaster.
Likewise, Bernie Sanders as well as Kamala Harris are facing criticism for trying to brush off scandals close to their orbit.
Several Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls — including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and now Kirsten Gillibrand — are defending their self-professed commitment to the ideals of the #MeToo movement against a series of accusations they recently mismanaged sexual-misconduct claims against their subordinates.
As the three prominent senators each have sought to draw a sharp contrast with President Trump, who has faced his own misconduct allegations, the claims highlighted vulnerabilities that could become major liabilities not only in a heated Democrat Party primary, but also in the general election.
Back in 2017, Gillibrand and others ramped up the pressure for then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. He ultimately stepped down.
Gillibrand, who has been described by GQ Magazine as “the face of the MeToo movement,” said at the time that Franken’s alleged conduct had “shocked and disappointed her” and that he should “step aside” because “enough is enough.” But, it emerged on Monday that last summer, an aide in her mid-20’s who was working in Gillibrand’s Senate office also apparently decided that enough was enough, as she resigned in protest over the office’s handling of her sexual-harassment complaint against a senior male adviser to Gillibrand.
“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the woman, who resigned less than three weeks after reporting the purported harassment, wrote to Gillibrand in a letter obtained by Politico. Gillibrand, responding to the allegations on Monday, said an appropriate investigation was launched — and her office later said the male staffer had been fired after other unreported, “deeply disturbing” comments surfaced.
The woman was granted anonymity because of fears of retaliation.
Gillibrand faced immediate friendly fire after calling for Franken’s resignation — in 2018, liberal billionaire megadonor George Soros argued that Gillibrand turned on Franken to “improve her chances” in the 2020 presidential race — and some of those hard feelings among her fellow progressives have not subsided.
For Sanders, the Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats, looming resentment from establishment progressives also has posed a major challenge. A January report in The New York Times outlining what one former Sanders delegate called an “entire wave of rotten sexual harassment that seemingly was never dealt with” during his 2016 presidential run seemed only to bolster on-the-record claims from Democrats that Sanders was too impersonal and arrogant to lead the party.
Asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper earlier this year whether he was unaware of the sexual harassment allegations, Sanders replied: “Uh, yes. I was a little bit busy running around the country, trying to make the case.” He then appeared to smile.
The next week, after reports surfaced that a top aide was accused of sexually assaulting a female subordinate during Sanders’ campaign, he issued a strong apology and a vow to change.