In 2015, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) settled a wrongful dismissal complaint filed by a former employee who said she was fired after refusing to "succumb" to Conyers' "sexual advances," BuzzFeed News reports.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she was afraid of retaliation, said she complained in 2014 to Congress' Office of Compliance, and she ultimately signed a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of $27,111.75, which came from Conyers' office budget. Conyers admitted no fault as part of the settlement, BuzzFeed News reports. His office did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment, and the Office of Compliance could not confirm or deny dealing with the woman's case.
BuzzFeed News was given documents related to the case by right-wing Twitter provocateur Mike Cernovich, who claimed he passed them along because if he published them, Democrats would "try to discredit the story by attacking the messenger." BuzzFeed News says it independently confirmed the authenticity of the documents, which included four signed affidavits. The affidavits were from women who used to work for Conyers, who said he asked them for sexual favors and would rub their backs and legs. For more on the allegations and the process of filing sexual harassment complaints in Congress, visit BuzzFeed News. Catherine Garcia
Women working on Capitol Hill use a word-of-mouth 'creep list' to warn each other about male members to avoid
Nearly 50 lawmakers and political aides told CNN that they have "personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have." One female congresswoman claimed "half [of the men in Congress] are harassers" before revising her statement to assert that only "some" are. Whatever the exact numbers, though, harassment is reportedly common and widespread; as one Senate aide put it, Capitol Hill is "a sort of old school, Wild West workplace culture that has a lot of 'work hard, play hard' ethos and without the sort of standard professionalism that you find in more traditional workplaces."
Female lawmakers and Hill staff reportedly use a word-of-mouth "creep list" to warn each other about which male members to avoid. Others employ basic rules of thumb: Avoid the male lawmakers who sleep in their offices, for example, and skip taking an elevator alone with a male congressman or senator.
The people CNN interviewed declined to go on record, many out of fear of repercussions. CNN additionally declined to name which lawmakers face allegations because the stories are unverified, although "more than half a dozen interviewees independently named one California congressman for pursuing female staffers; another half dozen pointed to a Texas congressman for engaging in inappropriate behavior."
Leaders from both major parties have called for sexual harassment training in Congress, as well as cited flaws in the system of handling victims' harassment allegations. "We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) earlier this month.
Still, not everyone is optimistic. "There's a little bit of a sex trade on Capitol Hill," said one former staffer. "If a part of getting ahead on Capitol Hill is playing ball with whatever douchebag — then whatever." Read the full report at CNN. Jeva Lange
After several women accused journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment during his time as political director at ABC News, Penguin Press announced Thursday it has canceled plans to publish an updated version of his book Game Change.
Halperin was co-authoring the book, featuring stories from the 2016 presidential election, with John Heilemann. HBO announced earlier in the day it is no longer moving forward with a miniseries about the election that was going to be based on this book, saying in a statement, "HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions." Halperin is also a senior political analyst at MSNBC, and the network said he is leaving his role "until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood."
The women who came forward and spoke to CNN and The Washington Post shared similar stories, with several saying Halperin propositioned them for sex while on the campaign trail, and others saying he pressed his genitals against them. He denies doing so, but in a statement to CNN said he "did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me. I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize." Catherine Garcia
The public revelations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein earlier this month spurred a national conversation about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault, both in the entertainment industry as well as in countless other workplaces. It also offered women an opportunity to step forward, both by way of the #MeToo social media movement and in the form of a steady stream of similar reports that have since been published, including accusations by 38 women against The Pick-up Artist director James Toback in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. After the report was made public, the Times said more than 200 additional women contacted the newsroom via email and phone with similar stories.
"I wish I had never met him and, from the looks of it, I don't appear to be the only one," publisher Judith Regan told the Times.
Women claim Toback, 72, would initially approach them with the promise of interviews or auditions, touting his credits and connections to stars. "Those auditions involved humiliating personal questions, boasts of sexual conquests, and Toback forcing them to watch him masturbate," Vanity Fair writes. Toback has denied the accusations, claiming in part that it has been "biologically impossible" for him to do what accusers describe.
"I've been hoping the Weinstein/O'Reilly stuff would bring this vampire into the light (him and a couple others, frankly)," wrote Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn in a Facebook post. "I told the women who would come forward I had their back. This is me doing my best to fulfill that promise." Jeva Lange
After more than 140 legislators, staffers, political consultants, and lobbyists signed an open letter saying there is a "pervasive" culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment in the California state Capitol, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced Monday he has hired two outside firms to investigate the allegations.
The law office of Amy Oppenheimer will conduct an external investigation into the accusations, while the consulting firm CPS HR Consulting will review the Senate's policies on harassment and discrimination, the Los Angeles Times reports. "There's always more employers can do to protect their employees," de León said in a statement. "Everyone deserves a workplace free of fear, harassment, and sexual misbehavior and I applaud the courage of women working in and around the Capitol who are coming forward and making their voices heard."
It's not enough for some of the women who signed the letter. "To find the truth and rebuild trust, we need a truly independent investigation, not a secretly hand-picked self-investigation," Adama Iwu, government affairs director for Visa and the leader of the campaign, told the Times. "We need full transparency. How was this firm selected? Who will they report their findings to? What exactly are they investigating? Is the Assembly involved?" The signers are launching a nonprofit called We Said Enough, which will advocate for victims of harassment and abuse. Catherine Garcia
Fidelity Investments dismissed two high-level executives in the past few weeks amid sexual harassment complaints, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reported Sunday, and the Los Angeles Times and New Orleans Times-Picayune published reports of serial sexual harassment against a Hollywood writer/director and a New Orleans celebrity restaurateur, respectively. The investigations of sexual misconduct in some cases predated the revelations of alleged sexual assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but they were published after a Weinstein-prompted #MeToo campaign in which women shared their harassment stories over social media.
At Fidelity, portfolio manager C. Robert Chow resigned earlier in October after colleagues accused him of making inappropriate sexual comments, and tech fund manager Gavin Baker was fired for allegedly harassing a 26-year-old female employee, the Post reports. Both men worked in Fidelity's stock-picking unit, and after an emergency meeting last week, Fidelity reportedly hired an outside consultant to audit behavior in the powerful division.
At least 38 women, meanwhile, told the Los Angeles Times that director James Toback had sexually harassed them, usually involving some form of aggressive masturbation. Toback has been making movies since 1974 and got an Oscar nomination for his Bugsy screenplay, but since he wasn't a household name, "Toback always kept his credentials handy when he introduced himself to women" around Manhattan, typically saying he could advance their careers, writes Glenn Whipp at the L.A. Times.
Twenty-four women told The Times-Picayune, meanwhile, that they were victims of sexual harassment at restaurants tied to celebrity chef and restaurateur John Besh. One women filed a federal employment discrimination complaint saying Besh himself coerced her into a sexual relations — he said it was consensual. The women collectively "described a company where several male coworkers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance, and — in a few cases — tried to leverage positions of authority for sex," The Times-Picayune says. Peter Weber