Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton protected a senior adviser who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a subordinate during her 2008 presidential run, according to a report in The New York Times Friday.
Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that Clinton fire Burns Strider, who served as Clinton’s faith adviser, but Clinton chose not to. The woman he was accused of having harassed was moved to a new job, according to the Times.
The woman, then 30, told campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle that Strider had rubbed her shoulders, kissed her on the forehead, and sent her suggestive emails. Solis Doyle took the information to Clinton, who reportedly said she didn’t want Strider — who sent her daily scripture readings — fired over the accusations.
“To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken,” the law firm that represented the campaign said in a statement to the Times. “This complaint was no exception.”
In this case, “appropriate action” for the Clinton camp meant docking Strider a few weeks’ pay and ordering him to undergo counseling, after which he was allowed to resume working with the campaign.
Friday’s report about Strider is the latest incident to erode the Democratic Party’s credibility on sexual harassment. Late last year, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) were accused of sexual harassment by a number of women, sending the party flailing.
On Meet the Press, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi initially defended Conyers as an “icon,” and only said she believed one of the women who had accused him of harassment after meeting with her face to face. It took eight different women coming forward publicly with stories of having been harassed by Franken before some of his colleagues called for his resignation.
And even after Franken resigned and left the Senate, some of his former colleagues have expressed discomfort with the fact that the senator stepped down in the wake of the allegations.
“I definitely think he should not resign,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said before Franken left office. “I’ve seen a person that his own caucus has turned on. It just made me sick. It really did.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) made similar comments.
“I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee. I regret not doing that this time,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Ethics Committee should have been allowed to investigate and make its recommendation.”
For Democrats, there sometimes appears to be a higher standard of proof for men accused of misconduct in their own caucus. In the same interview where Pelosi defended Conyers as an icon, she called Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore a child molester, and Democrats have not hesitated to hit Trump for his own alleged misconduct (though, notably, only a small handful have called on him to resign over the allegations).
The Democratic Party did not nominate an alleged serial child rapist for a United States Senate in 2017. But Democratic Party can’t afford to simply be better than Republicans on the question of powerful, abusive men.
A powerful anger and resolve has taken hold of the country since the Weinstein story broke last fall. The #MeToo movement isn’t a place where Democrats can afford to be merely less-bad. The bar for being a good actor cannot be set by the Republican Party and their willingness to tolerate the worst conduct.
People are angry — women are angry — and they aren’t going to trust a party that tolerates Strider and downplays allegations against members of its own caucus.