GOP calls for Dem lawmaker's resignation over harassment ‘cover-up’

GOP calls for Dem lawmaker's resignation over harassment ‘cover-up’
© Haiyun Jiang

The House Republicans’ campaign arm called Friday for the resignation of Rep. Elizabeth EstyElizabeth Henderson EstyFormer aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action Rising Dem star in Connecticut says people like me ‘deserve a seat at the table’ in Congress House Dems to invest in South Carolina race MORE following revelations that the Connecticut Democrat kept a former top-level aide on staff for several months after learning of allegations that he’d harassed and threatened other staffers. 

“Elizabeth Esty orchestrated one of the most disturbing Washington cover-ups in recent memory,” Chris Martin, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said in a brief statement. 

“There is no place for someone who protects abusers in Congress, and she should resign immediately.”

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Esty has come under fire after reports emerged Thursday that her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, had allegedly punched, berated and threatened to kill another former aide, Anna Kain, whom he had previously dated.

The episode was first reported by CTPost.com.

Upon learning the allegations in the spring of 2016, Esty, a third-term lawmaker, said she demanded that Baker seek counseling and launched an internal investigation into the workings of her office.

“I’ve asked myself over and over again, 'how did I not see this?'” she said Thursday evening in a statement, apologizing that she’d “failed to protect [Kain] and provide her with the safe and respectful work environment that every employee deserves.”

Roughly three months after the allegations emerged, Baker left the office after securing a nondisclosure statement, a positive job recommendation from Esty and a $5,000 severance payment, according to CTPost.com. Baker subsequently took a position with Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control group founded after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Esty’s district.

The severance agreement has led to questions about why Esty, a vocal proponent of the anti-harassment "Me Too" movement, would have helped a staffer facing harassment charges find work outside the office. In statements to CTPost.com and The Washington Post, Esty shifted some of the blame on the bureaucratic process, dictated by the Office of House Employment Counsel, for removing staffers in such cases.

The system, she told the Post, is designed not to remove miscreant aides, but “to protect the member of Congress whose bad behavior caused the problem.”

“It felt wrong to me,” she said. 

She also reportedly reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for the $5,000 severance payment, using personal funds.

Esty’s office said Friday that the congresswoman was unavailable to comment.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter issued from her office on Friday morning, Esty again apologized for her handling of the incident and urged fellow Democrats to join her in adopting tougher rules designed to “prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”

“None of our staff deserve to be harassed or treated with disrespect as some of my staff were,” she wrote. “I can’t rewrite the past – but I can help right the future.”