Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand defended her office’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment on Monday evening, stating that a staff member’s accusations were “believed” and “completely investigated.”
The MeToo activist and presidential candidate from New York claimed during an MSNBC town hall that the Senate staffer’s allegations “did not rise to sexual harassment, but we did find evidence of derogatory comments,” adding that her senior aide Abbas Malik “was punished” for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances.
The former Gillibrand employee’s resignation in protest over the office’s handling of her sexual harassment charges last summer was first covered by POLITICO earlier this month. However, after learning of more claims of wrongdoing by Malik in the workplace, Gillibrand’s office launched a fresh inquiry into the assistant and fired him in early March.
During the town hall, Gillibrand stated, “In terms of my own office, the woman who came forward, she was believed, and her concerns were handled seriously. This worker was highly appreciated. I assured her of our affection for her and my love for her.
In response to allegations that she demanded Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) resignation too soon in 2017 after eight women accused him of sexual harassment, Gillibrand hit back. The first Democratic senator to call for Franken’s resignation was Gillibrand. She was shortly joined by over two dozen senators from the party.
According to Gillibrand, “Senator Franken was entitled to whatever form of review or process he desired.” He could have persisted, remained in the Senate, and endured the Ethics Committee’s inquiry. He had to make those decisions, but I had to make mine.
Susie Tompkins Buell and other significant Democratic contributors have voiced their displeasure with Gillibrand’s decision to demand Franken’s resignation. But according to Gillibrand, “that’s on them” if “a few influential Democratic contributors are upset.”
The “Green New Deal” and raising the minimum wage were two of the major progressive concerns that Gillibrand discussed during the town hall.
In regards to health care, Gillibrand, who has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” bill, said she would favor allowing people to first enroll in Medicare at any age to “create a not-for-profit public option as a transition” rather than immediately abolishing all private health insurance and switching to a single-payer system.
Given that private health insurance providers are for-profit businesses, Gillibrand said she “dares” them to compete with a public option since she “doesn’t think they’ll satisfy the needs.”
In a few years, she said, most Americans will opt for Medicare due to its higher quality and lower cost.
She also discussed her record as a conservative House member who once served an upstate New York Republican district on immigration and gun control. She backed making English the national language of the United States at the time and was given an “A” rating by the National Rifle Association.
In regards to weapons, Gillibrand said she “could have been better” and expressed regret over the fact that she “didn’t think beyond the priorities or needs of the people I represented.”
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