In what appears to be a highly disruptive and disturbing turn of events for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is known as one of the most outspoken advocates of the #MeToo movement, an aide who worked for her, Abbas Malik, has been accused of sexual misconduct.
This now-former aide, Abbas Malik, was reportedly under investigation last year because of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment claims made against him by another aide. The latter resigned in protest because she said that Gillibrand’s office did not do enough to protect her from Malik.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Kirsten Gillibrand Aide Accused Abbas Malik of Highly Disturbing Sexual Harassment & Resigned Last Year in Protest
According to the aide who resigned from Gillibrand’s office, she resigned because she felt that Gillibrand’s office did not handle her complaints about Abbas Malik properly, nor did the office conduct a proper investigation into his allegedly inappropriate behaviors.
“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 unnamed female aide said in a letter to Gillibrand last August. “I have offered my resignation because of how poorly the investigation and post-investigation was handled.”
This young woman is said to be in her mid-20s. Malik, on the other hand, is at least a decade her senior–and married.
2. More Accusers Spoke Against Abbas Malik
According to Politico’s extensive reporting, additional allegations of sexual harassment and disturbing behavior have surfaced against Malik.
Politico said that other staffers had issues with Malik.
One former staffer said that Malik “often called her fat and unattractive to her face and made light of sexual abuse.”
Malik reportedly also joked that a certain woman “couldn’t get laid unless she was raped.”
When reached out to for comment on his alleged caustic and disturbing actions, Malik did not respond to Politico for comment.
3. Abbas Malik Has–Only Now–Been Fired
Though Malik had been a close aide to Gillibrand for a long time. He was fired just last week.
Reports say that even though Malik has been fired, the above comments accusing him of sexual harassment could be very damaging for Gillibrand, who is running for the 2020 presidential elections.
Malik’s case is especially damaging for Gillibrand because she has branded herself as one of the forefront champions of #MeToo on Capitol Hill. Gillibrand has also positioned her brand as being an advocate for gender equality.
Gillibrand’s presidential campaign has indeed struggled to build momentum, according to reports, since she has not “distinguished herself from the crowded field of Democratic challengers,” reporter Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair says.
Allegations against Malik have caused Gillibrand to stand out from the Democratic field but for seemingly all the wrong reasons. Analysts say that if she is unable to properly address the disconcerting allegations against Malik, it could sink her campaign.
So far, Gillibrand has given Politico a statement about Malik. “We must believe women so that serious investigations can actually take place, we can learn the facts, and there can be appropriate accountability,” she said, in light of the Malik accusations. “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.”
4. Abbas Malik Was Initially Allowed to Keep His Job
Malik was not fired last year when the investigations were made, even amid reports that he made rape jokes and “crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires.”
Malik’s accuser, the woman in her 20s, had reported Malik to Gillibrand’s deputy chief of staff, Anne Bradley.
Bradley then told the chief of staff Jess Fassler.
Gillibrand’s office says they then investigated the matter internally. Malik was, according to them, “disciplined,” but not fired, as it appears.
One of the most uphill aspects of the investigation that Gillibrand’s office might face is that it reportedly did not interview two former staffers who allegedly might have been able to corroborate the accuser’s story. Gillibrand’s staff, specifically Fassler, said that they did in fact “believe” Malik’s accuser, but then she deflected blame by saying that the aide, too, had committed “fireable offenses” in the office.
5. While Abbas Malik Enjoyed His Comfort at the Job, His Accuser Reportedly Remained on Part-Time Contract Work After Resigning
Malik’s accuser maintains that Malik retaliated professionally against her.
Politico says that, since she left last summer, Malik’s accuser has been relying on part-time contract work.
Of note, Malik kept his job.
This outcome arguably does not bode well, come election season, given Gillibrand’s platform. Gillibrand was the same adamant senator who issued a political war cry for Sen. Al Franken to resign over his sexual-harassment scandal.
The idea that Gillibrand had her own #MeToo issues brewing in her office is causing several news outlets to put a problematic spotlight on her and her campaign.