- Getty/Tasos Katopodis
- A young female former staffer on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign has accused a former top campaign aide, Robert Becker, of forcibly kissing her in July 2016.
- Several other former campaign staffers told Politico that Becker, who “categorically” denies the claims, engaged in inappropriate behavior.
- This comes as dozens of former Sanders campaign staffers have made complaints about mistreatment of female staffers and pay disparities between women and men on the campaign.
A young woman has accused a former top aide on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign of forcibly kissing her. Several other former campaign staffers have also accused the aide, Robert Becker, of inappropriate conduct.
The woman told Politico that Becker, now 50, approached her at a bar on the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, grabbed her wrists and kissed her, forcing his tongue in her mouth. Three other people who witnessed the incident or were told about it shortly after confirmed the account to Politico.
The woman says that Becker – who served as Sanders’ convention floor leader and deputy national field director in Iowa, Michigan, and New York – also told her that he had long wanted to have sex with her.
The 20-something woman decided to report the incident to Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, and othe top aides recently, after Becker contacted her and other former staffers about Sanders’ potential 2020 presidential bid.
“It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with,” the woman told Politico. “This can’t happen in 2020. You can’t run for President of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”
Becker “categorically” denied the allegations, calling them “at odds with my recollection of a late evening filled with many hugs and kisses and tears and conversations about what’s next.”
Weaver told Politico he believes the allegations against Becker are credible.
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The senator’s campaign committee, Friends of Bernie Sanders, called the alleged behavior “deplorable and fundamentally unacceptable” and said Becker “would not be a part of any future campaigns” in a statement to Politico.
“To be clear: no one who committed sexual harassment in 2016 would be back if there were a 2020 campaign,” the group said.
In recent weeks, many former campaign staffers have made allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment and pay disparity on the campaign. Dozens of women and men who worked on the 2016 campaign signed a letter asking to meet with Sanders and his top aides “to discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.”
“Was it too male? Yes. Was it too white? Yes,” Weaver recently told the New York Times. “Would this be a priority to remedy on any future campaign? Definitely, and we share deeply in the urgency for all of us to make change.”
More than a half-dozen staffers who worked with Becker during the course of the campaign have made claims that he acted inappropriately or managed his subordinates poorly.
Sanders apologized “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately” in an interview with CNN last week. But he was criticized by some for saying that he was unaware of the complaints because “I was little bit busy running around the country.”
On Thursday, Sanders apologized again during a press conference. “To the women in our campaign who were harassed or mistreated, I apologize,” he said.
Becker also oversaw the firing of two employees – one on the Iowa team and one in Illinois – who filed a discrimination complaint against the campaign that resulted in a $30,000 settlement, Politico reported. While Becker said he stands by the firings, Weaver said Becker doesn’t speak for the campaign.
“Robert Becker is not working for the campaign. He is not an agent of the campaign and his comments were not made on behalf of, or authorized by, the campaign,” Weaver told Politico. “On behalf of the campaign, we respect the work [the employees] did for the campaign.”