ABC and NBC on Monday skipped a brewing scandal over how 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand allegedly mishandled a sexual harassment case in her Senate office. Only CBS This Morning covered the story (for a scant 49 seconds).
Co-host Norah O’Donnell briefly explained, “Politico says a female aide to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand resigned last summer in protest over the handling of her sexual harassment claim by Gillibrand’s office. The staffer in her mid-20s, alleged that one of the longtime made aides reportedly made unwelcome advances.”
O’Donnell added, “The female aide resigned less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment. Politico reached out to more than 20 former Gillibrand staffers and says it found more allegations of inappropriate behavior by the aide.”
The Politico story, broken by writers Alex Thompson and Daniel Strauss at 5 AM on Monday, detailed:
In July, the female staffer alleged one of Gillibrand’s closest aides — who was a decade her senior and married — repeatedly made unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her. She also said the male aide regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires.
Less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and subsequently claiming that the man retaliated against her for doing so, the woman told chief of staff Jess Fassler that she was resigning because of the office’s handling of the matter. She did not have another job lined up.
The woman was granted anonymity because she fears retaliation and damage to her future professional prospects.
“I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled,” the woman wrote to Gillibrand in a letter sent on her final day to the senator's personal email account. Copied were general counsel Keith Castaldo and Fassler, who is now managing the senator’s presidential bid.
“I trusted and leaned on this statement that you made: ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable.’ Your office chose to go against your public belief that women shouldn’t accept sexual harassment in any form and portrayed my experience as a misinterpretation instead of what it actually was: harassment and ultimately, intimidation,” the woman wrote.
Despite a combined four hours of air time, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today avoided reporting on the story. CBS This Morning managed 49 seconds. Over on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, panelist Adrienne Elrod predicted that this controversy would damage Gillibrand’s 2020 aspirations:
I do think it hurts her campaign. Mainly because she has been a chief advocate in this entire race when it comes to victims of the Me Too movement and victims of sexual misconduct and harassment.... So I think when you have an issue like this that literally leads your campaign, it's very difficult to overcome a situation that you mishandle in your office.
Perhaps what’s why the network journalists are showing such little interest. When Gillibrand declared, CBS provided a platform on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The host held hands with the Democrat as she announced she was forming an exploratory committee.
A transcript of the CBS segment is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
7:50 AM ET
NORAH O’DONNELL: Politico says a female aide to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand resigned last summer in protest over the handling of her sexual harassment claim by Gillibrand’s office. The staffer in her mid-20s, alleged that one of the longtime made aides reportedly made unwelcome advances. The female aide resigned less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment. Politico reached out to more than 20 former Gillibrand staffers and says it found more allegations of inappropriate behavior by the aide.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA: The 2020 presidential hopeful told Politico, quote, “We must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place and there can be appropriate accountability. That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year.” Gillibrand’s office opened a new investigation and dismissed the male aide last week. That male aide did not respond to requests for comment.