UPDATE: The Washington Post has reported that Sanders apologized to female staff members from his 2016 presidential campaign who have said they were sexually harassed by co-workers.
Speaking to reporters, Sanders said that he thanked the women “from the bottom of my heart for speaking out” and formally apologized to them, the Post reports.
“When we talk about ending sexism, and ending all forms of discrimination, those beliefs cannot just be words,” Sanders said. “They must be based in day-to-day reality and the work that we do. And that was clearly not the case in the 2016 campaign. The allegations that I have heard speak to unacceptable behavior that must not be tolerated in any campaign or in any workplace.”
Two employees of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign received a previously undisclosed $30,000 payout to settle a federal discrimination complaint, according to the political news outlet POLITICO.
In a story posted to its website Wednesday night, POLITICO said it was told by sources that a “central target” of the complaint was Robert Becker, who served as Sanders’ deputy national field director during the campaign.
The allegations are apparently unrelated to allegations in the same POLITICO report that, on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, Becker harassed and forcibly kissed a woman staffer who worked under him.
According to POLITICO, the 50-year-old Becker told the 20-year-old woman he wanted to have sex with her and, later in the evening, grabbed the woman by the wrists and held her head while kissing her.
Becker in a statement told POLITICO, “I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct.”
POLITICO said its reporters saw a copy of the discrimination settlement agreement and cited “two sources with knowledge of the complaint” who said it involved Becker, who traveled to South Carolina in December to recruit staffers for a possible 2020 presidential run by Sanders.
Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s principal campaign committee, said in a statement to POLITICO that “Robert Becker would not be a part of any future campaigns” and said the aide’s conduct was “deplorable and fundamentally unacceptable.”
“To be clear: no one who committed sexual harassment in 2016 would be back if there were a 2020 campaign,” the statement said, POLITICO reported.
Last month, POLITICO reported that dozens of women and men who worked on the 2016 campaign signed a letter requesting a meeting with Sanders and his leadership team “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.”
Sanders told CNN last week he was not aware of the allegations, but apologized “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately, and of course if I run, we will do better next time.”
Top advisers to Sanders are reportedly working to set up a meeting between Sanders and the signees of the letter, which POLITICO said included at least two sources who complained about Becker’s behavior during the 2016 campaign.