“We conducted a thorough and professional investigation and the person was accused was punished,” Gillibrand told a group of reporters, adding that her office takes “these kinds of allegations very seriously.”
“We investigated claims of sexual harassment and derogatory comments. We interviewed all current employees that had relevant information,” she continued. “We were able to substantiate derogatory comments and not able to substantiate the sexual harassment. The sexual harassment claims did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful made headlines on Monday morning when Politico reported that an unidentified female staffer had resigned in protest last summer after the aide said the senator mishandled her sexual harassment claim against a male employee.
The former female staffer alleged that Gillibrand’s special assistant Abbas Malik repeatedly made sexual advances after he was told he would be promoted to become the woman’s manager. Additionally, she accused Malik of making crude and misogynistic comments about other female colleagues and rating the appearances of potential female hires.
“I told this employee at the time that she was loved, that we loved her,” Gillibrand said Monday evening. “I deeply valued her, which is why we took her allegations immediately, investigated them immediately, and did a professional and thorough investigation.”
I deeply valued her, which is why we took her allegations immediately, investigated them immediately, and did a professional and thorough investigation. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Malik was ultimately denied that promotion and pay rise after Gillibrand’s office investigated the female staffer’s sexual harassment claims. He kept his job, but Gillibrand said Monday that he “was unable to have unsupervised contact” with the aide.
Gillibrand has come under fire for the situation because of her own outspoken record on tackling sexual assault in the military and government.
“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,’” the woman wrote in her resignation letter to Gillibrand in August.
“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 staffer added.
Gillibrand initially responded to the Politico report in a Monday morning statement to HuffPost reiterating that people need to believe women when they make accusations like this.
“As I have long said, when allegations are made in the workplace, we must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability,” the senator wrote. “That’s exactly what happened at every step of this case last year. I told her that we loved her at the time and the same is true today.”
Malik, who is married and a decade older than the female staffer, was let go from Gillibrand’s team last week, after Politico presented its own investigation of separate workplace misconduct claims against him.