[Marxism] Bernie Bros--literally
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 2 15:15:49 MST 2019
NY Times, Jan. 2, 2019
For Bernie Sanders, Claims of Sexism in 2016 Campaign Hang Over 2020 Bid
By Sydney Ember and Katie Benner
In February 2016, Giulianna Di Lauro, a Latino outreach strategist for
Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential operation, complained to her
supervisor that she had been harassed by a campaign surrogate whom she
drove to events ahead of the Democratic primary in Nevada.
She said the surrogate told her she had “beautiful curly hair” and asked
if he could touch it, Ms. Di Lauro said in an interview. Thinking he
would just touch a strand, she consented. But she said that he ran his
hand through her hair in a “sexual way” and continued to grab, touch and
“push my boundaries” for the rest of the day.
“I just wanted to be done with it so badly,” she said.
When she reported the incident to Bill Velazquez, a manager on the
Latino outreach team, he told her, “I bet you would have liked it if he
were younger,” according to her account and another woman who witnessed
the exchange. Then he laughed.
Accounts like Ms. Di Lauro’s — describing episodes of sexual harassment
and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity in Mr. Sanders’s 2016
campaign — have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments
and private discussions among former supporters. Now, as the Vermont
senator tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his
perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona
fides, delegates and nearly a dozen former state and national staff
members said in interviews over the last month.
And it has raised questions among them about whether he can adequately
fight for the interests of women, who have increasingly defined the
Democratic Party in the Trump era, if he runs again for the presidential
nomination in 2020.
The former staff members said complaints about mistreatment and pay
disparity during and just after the campaign reached some senior leaders
of the operation. It is not clear whether Mr. Sanders knew of the
Some women said the fledgling 2016 campaign was disorganized and
decentralized, which made it hard to know who to turn to in the case of
“I did experience sexual harassment during the campaign, and there was
no one who would or could help,” said Samantha Davis, the former
director of operations in Texas and New York, who also worked on the
campaign’s advance team. She said that her supervisor marginalized her
after she declined an invitation to his hotel room.
Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign manager and currently a top
adviser, said in an email that “anybody who committed harassment on the
campaign would not be asked back” and expressed regret for some of the
“Was it too male? Yes. Was it too white? Yes,” he said. “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. In 2016, as the size
of our campaign exploded, we made efforts to make it a positive
experience for people. That there was a failure pains me very much.”
In interviews, women told of makeshift living accommodations on the
road, where they were asked to sleep in rooms along with male co-workers
they didn’t know. Women who had access to salary records were taken
aback to learn that some female staff members made thousands of dollars
less than their male counterparts.
Two delegates who supported Mr. Sanders two years ago recently told his
staff that he can’t run for president again without addressing the
sexism they believe surfaced in his last campaign.
“There was an entire wave of rotten sexual harassment that seemingly was
never dealt with,” one of the delegates wrote in a December email,
obtained by The New York Times, to a Sanders political strategist.
Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s campaign committee, said in a
response to questions from The Times that there were a number of actions
taken during the 2016 campaign regarding harassment and sexism,
including employee counseling and a campaign-wide review to standardize
pay, and that there was a set of procedures and guidelines for workplace
conduct that staff members were required to read. It also said it had
developed a new harassment policy for Mr. Sanders’s Senate campaign last
Allegations of sexism surfaced during Mr. Sanders’s campaign in 2016,
when many of his male fans were derogatorily dubbed “Bernie Bros” for
their aggressive online attacks against female reporters and supporters
of Hillary Clinton. But they did not overshadow the electrifying nature
of his insurgent challenge.
Circumstances have changed since then. Mr. Sanders is no longer an
outsider, but an established leader who will be held to a higher
standard. And regarding the treatment of women, he must now grapple with
the effects of the #MeToo movement.
Political campaigns can be grueling experiences for both the women and
men involved. But some involved said they considered the treatment of
women on the Sanders campaign especially upsetting because the senator
positioned himself as a champion of progressive ideals and equality,
according to interviews and messages shared on Facebook.
“I don’t think he has to be the vehicle or the platform for the movement
that emerged from his campaign,” said Sarah Slamen, who worked for the
campaign in Texas, was the state coordinator in Louisiana and helped
build out Our Revolution, a progressive organization born from Mr.
Sanders’s presidential campaign.
“Do you know how hard that is for me to say after working so hard for
him?” she said.
Ms. Slamen quit the organization at the end of 2016 after she said she
was berated by a male member of the Our Revolution steering committee
for suggesting an organizing plan. In emails reviewed by The Times, she
raised issues about sexist behavior with committee members who saw the
incident and Our Revolution’s national board of directors. She said she
received no reassurance that anything would change.
In recent weeks, a Facebook group for campaign alumni has become a
sounding board for complaints about harassment, lewd comments and gender
discrimination. Some alumni have requested a meeting with the senator
and his campaign leadership team to address the “overall toxic
atmosphere of the 2016 campaign,” according to a screenshot of a post
viewed by The Times. Politico first reported on the request.
Ms. Di Lauro, the former strategist in Nevada, was emphatic in her own
Facebook posts. “I have to speak up about this now because I hope it
will be of service to the next Sanders campaign,” she wrote on Dec. 7.
In her interview with The Times, Ms. Di Lauro said she told several
people who were high up in the campaign, including Rich Pelletier, who
served as national field director, about her encounter in Nevada with
the surrogate, a Mexican game show host named Marco Antonio Regil. But
she felt she was not taken seriously by the campaign.
“It was as if nothing happened,” she said.
Masha Mendieta, who was also on the Latino outreach team and who was
with Ms. Di Lauro when she spoke with Mr. Velazquez about the incident,
confirmed his comments.
Mr. Velazquez said he does not recall making the flippant remark to Ms.
Di Lauro and that he took her complaint seriously. He said he assigned
two women to accompany the surrogate, and he checked in with them to
make sure there were no problems.
Mr. Regil said through his agent that he was honored to be a campaign
surrogate for Mr. Sanders. “I sincerely apologize for any interactions
or behavior on my part that could’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable,” he
Mr. Velasquez said he also told his boss, Arturo Carmona, another
manager on the Latino outreach team and deputy national political
director, about what had happened and followed up with a memo to Mr.
Carmona two weeks later, detailing the incident in an email and saying
that he believed Ms. Di Lauro.
Mr. Carmona said in an email to The Times that, after Mr. Velazquez
notified him about the incident, he reported it to Mr. Pelletier.
The senator’s campaign committee, in its responses to The Times, said no
member of the leadership above Mr. Pelletier was aware of the incident
until after the campaign.
The committee said managers in some cases had not received appropriate
training. “With the benefit of hindsight, the surprise explosion of the
campaign resulted in there being less-than-ideal training
infrastructure,” it said.
Mr. Pelletier did not respond to phone messages and emails seeking comment.
Pay disparity became another source of frustration among some women,
according to former staff members, especially given that labor was one
of the senator’s signature issues. During his campaign, Mr. Sanders
earned kudos for paying his interns, a relatively unheard-of practice.
Some former staff members said there was little pay transparency, and
employees often negotiated their own salaries — practices that tend to
favor men, who often feel more comfortable requesting higher
Ms. Davis, the former state director, said that she was originally paid
about $2,400 a month as a senior staff member and saw in the campaign’s
records that a younger man who was originally supposed to report to her
made $5,000 a month. She said that she brought the issue to the
campaign’s chief operating officer, who adjusted her salary to achieve
“I helped at least a dozen women request raises so that they would be
paid on par with their male peers,” Ms. Davis said.
The senator’s campaign committee acknowledged that there were pay
disparities but said salaries were based on experience or the nature of
the job and “never determined based on any consideration of an
individual’s gender or of any other personal characteristic.’’
During the campaign, the committee said, it conducted a review to try to
standardize pay across the states and within headquarters.
Treated like ‘personal assistants’
Frustration among campaign alumni boiled over in recent weeks when Mr.
Carmona, the deputy national political director and a divisive figure on
the 2016 campaign, appeared smiling in a photograph in early December
with Mr. Sanders’s wife, Jane, at a symposium hosted by her
organization, the Sanders Institute.
In 2017, when Mr. Carmona was running for Congress, Ms. Mendieta, the
woman who worked with Ms. Di Lauro, came forward with allegations that
Mr. Carmona had demeaned women during the 2016 campaign. Ms. Mendieta
said in a March 2017 post on Medium that Mr. Carmona treated female
staffers “like his personal assistants fetching things for him and doing
Other women backed up Ms. Mendieta’s allegations, and a letter signed by
dozens of former campaign staffers and surrogates was circulated urging
progressives to withdraw their endorsements of Mr. Carmona. (He lost his
special election primary bid in 2017.)
In an interview, Ms. Mendieta said that she complained multiple times to
Mr. Velazquez and Mr. Pelletier about Mr. Carmona and was repeatedly
ignored, at one point being told by Mr. Velazquez that she should
forgive Mr. Carmona’s behavior because he was “macho.”
Mr. Velazquez said that he does not remember making that remark or
anything like it.
Ms. Mendieta was among the Latino outreach team members who she said
were expected to stay in a run-down house in Chicago in March 2016. When
she arrived, she said she was told she was supposed to sleep in a room
with three men she did not know.
“I was shaking with fear,’’ she said. “Literally, I remember thinking to
myself, ‘What am I going to do?’” She said she reported the incident to
The campaign committee said that “the challenge of finding staffer
housing is one that plagues every large campaign.” It said it knew of
one instance that was brought to the attention of senior leaders,
including Mr. Weaver, the campaign manager, and that both Mr. Weaver and
the chief operating officer “ordered that staff never be housed in coed
hotel rooms again.”
Some weeks later, Ms. Mendieta and other members of the Latino outreach
team shared their concerns about Mr. Carmona and Mr. Velazquez during a
conference call with Mr. Pelletier, Ms. Mendieta said. The Times has
reviewed an email scheduling the call, and another staff member who
participated confirmed the substance of the discussion.
Mr. Carmona was promoted out of the Latino outreach group during the
campaign and named a deputy national political director.
Mr. Carmona, in an email, denied the allegations that he was demeaning
and said, “All sexual harassment and issues of discrimination should be
taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”
Kitty Bennett, Doris Burke and Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.
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