Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., apologized on Thursday to women who were “harassed or mistreated” while working on his 2016 presidential campaign, after a series of sexual harassment allegations against top male campaign staffers.
“What they experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign, or any campaign, should be about,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.
In recent weeks, multiple women who worked on the Sanders campaign have come forward with accounts of sexual harassment by male colleagues. Many of the women said that their attempts to report the incidents went ignored by campaign officials, according to a report by The New York Times.
The latest allegation came Thursday morning, when Politico reported that top campaign advisor Robert Becker forcibly kissed a female staffer after the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Becker has recently been involved in efforts to recruit staff for Sanders’ potential 2020 presidential run. Becker told Politico in a statement: “I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct.”
In his statement Thursday, Sanders acknowledged that the campaign’s “standards and safeguards were inadequate” in 2016 but have since improved.
Sanders’ 2018 senate re-election campaign “established some of the strongest sexual harassment policies in the country,” including an independent human resources firm to handle harassment allegations.
Allegations of harassment in the 2016 campaign could hamper Sanders’ potential 2020 presidential run before it even begins, at a time when the #MeToo movement remains strong. Going forward, Sanders said that he plans to be actively involved in the “cultural revolution in this country to change workplace attitudes and behavior.”
Last month, Congress passed a bill reforming sexual harassment policy on Capitol Hill that eliminated the three-month waiting period before victims could file a complaint, among other changes.