Former Female Campaign Staffers Told the ‘New York Times’ that They Experienced Sexism & Harassment on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Campaign

Several women on the Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign team told the New York Times in a new report on Wednesday that they allegedly witnessed or experienced harassment and sexism while working on the campaign. The report comes in the midst of Sanders potential launch of a presidential bid for 2020. 

The Times interviewed multiple former campaign staffers with several women detailing how their superiors didn’t take allegations of sexual harassment seriously. Other women on the campaign even revealed that they were initially paid less than the men who worked in similar positions. 

Friends of Bernie Sanders, which is Vermont senator’s campaign committee, released a statement about the claims in the Times report, saying: 

“Friends of Bernie Sanders does not and will not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind,” the statement said. “During 2016 there were a number of HR actions taken, and while it is not appropriate to discuss them individually, actions taken range from employee counseling to immediate termination from the campaign.”

The statement continued with: “Last year, during the 2018 Senate campaign, we developed and implemented robust policies and processes regarding discrimination and harassment that included features such as third party toll free hotline for reporting incidents outside the structure of the campaign and requiring all staff and volunteers to undergo training as part of the on boarding process.” 

Giulianna Di Lauro, who is a Latinx outreach strategist for Sanders’ 2016 campaign, told the Times about an incident with game show host and campaign surrogate Marco Antonio Regil. Di Lauro had to drive Regil to a campaign event prior to the Nevada primary, and she told the Times that he ran his hand through her hair in a “sexual way.” She then said Regil continued to grab her, touch her and generally “push [her] boundaries” throughout the day. 

Di Lauro reported the incident to Bill Velazquez, who is the manager on the Latinx outreach team, but the Times reported that Velazquez laughed and said, “I bet you would have liked it if he were younger.” She continued to tell other higher-up officials on the campaign about it, but she told the Times that the incident wasn't addressed. In a statement to the Times, Velazquez said that he doesn’t remember saying that comment to Di Lauro and that he did report her accusations to his superiors at the time. Regil also released a statement via his agent to the Times saying he “sincerely apologize[s] for any interactions or behavior on my part that could’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable.” 

“I did experience sexual harassment during the campaign, and there was no one who would or could help,” said former director of operations for Sanders’ campaign in Texas and New York Samantha Davis to the Times. According to the Times, she said that a superior of hers invited her to his hotel room. When she declined the invitation, she said he “marginalized” her.

The news outlet also reported that many women on the campaign were paid less than their male co-workers. According to the Times, Davis said that she earned around $2,400 each month when she learned that a man who initially reported to her was paid $5,000 each month. After telling this to the campaign’s chief operating officer, Davis said she was given a raise. She also told the Times that she helped “at least a dozen women request raises so that they would be paid on par with their male peers.”

At the time of the Times report's release, it was not clear whether or not Sanders’ knew about the allegations. Jeff Weaver, the 2016 campaign manager, told the publication that anyone who committed harassment “would not be asked back.”

But Sanders said in an interview later on Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he had no knowledge of the allegations made. 

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we did everything right in terms of human resources, in terms of addressing the needs that I’m hearing now that women felt disrespected, that there was sexual harassment which was not dealt with as effectively as possible,” Sanders said in the CNN interview. 

The senator also told CNN that his campaign for the 2018 midterms had a new “gold standard” that everyone should implement and follow. 

“What I will tell you is that when I ran for re-election in 2018 in Vermont we put forward the strongest set of principles in terms of mandatory training, in terms of women, if they felt harassed, having an independent firm that they could go to, and I think that’s kind of the gold standard for what we should be doing,” he said. 

Sanders also issued an apologized “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately," and he added that “if I run, we will do better next time.” 

The new report comes days after Politico revealed that over two dozen alumni of Sanders’ campaign sent a letter to the senator’s office about “sexual violence harassment” that happened on the campaign in hopes to “mitigate the issue in the upcoming president cycle.”