Robert Becker denies accusations…
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines and Agence France-Presse) Bernie Sanders apologized Thursday for “unacceptable” sexual harassment that occurred on his 2016 presidential campaign, directly addressing an issue that could weigh on the senator’s potential 2020 White House bid.
The unaffiliated Senator from Vermont — who ran as a Democrat in 2016 — has been on the defensive for weeks while he mulls another presidential bid, as several former campaign staffers have made allegations of sexual misconduct and pay disparity.
“It now appears that as part of our campaign there were some women who were harassed or mistreated. I thank them, from the bottom of my heart, for speaking out,” Sanders said in a statement.
Sanders does not stand accused of harassing staffers himself, but has been criticized for poorly handling the complaints.
The harassment allegations “speak to unacceptable behavior that must not be tolerated in any campaign or any workplace,” Sanders said.
“To the women in that campaign who were harassed or mistreated I apologize. Our standards and safeguards were inadequate.”
Sanders had apologized before, albeit not in such a comprehensive fashion.
Thursday’s statement emerged hours after a Politico story that detailed new accusations against a top Sanders adviser in 2016 who is already taking steps towards working on a possible 2020 Sanders campaign in early voting states like Iowa.
An unnamed woman accused the aide, Robert Becker, of forcibly kissing her shortly after the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.
According to the woman and other sources, Sanders’s national field director told the woman that he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his “pole,” Politico reported.
Becker then grabbed the woman and held her wrists as he forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth, the woman said.
The woman told Politico that she did not formally report the harassment because the campaign was over, but Becker recently contacted her again to ask if she’d be interested in another potential presidential run.
She then contacted the 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver and told him what happened to her.
But Sanders has refused to take action, she said.
“Candidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government,” said the woman. “It just really sucks because no one ever held [Becker] accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020. You can’t run for President of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”
In a statement, Becker denied the alleged incident and other claims of inappropriate behavior.
“I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct,” Becker said, adding that the alleged assault is “at odds with my recollection of a late evening filled with many hugs and kisses and tears and conversations about what’s next.”
However one of the senator’s principal campaign committees, Friends of Bernie Sanders, said it will not support another presidential run if Becker is involved.
“Robert Becker would not be a part of any future campaigns,” the group said in a statement. “To be clear: no one who committed sexual harassment in 2016 would be back if there were a 2020 campaign,” and described Becker’s conduct as “deplorable and fundamentally unacceptable.”