A key ally of President Joe Biden who has been nominated to a high-level post is coming under fire over accusations he knew about an aide’s history of sexual harassment.
And critics allege he did nothing about it.
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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has seen his nomination as Biden’s ambassador to India stall over allegations of sexual harassment and racist behavior by top advisor Rick Jacobs.
Jacobs has denied the allegations, and Garcetti testified under oath that he wasn’t aware of them – and that if he had seen anything of that nature, he would’ve stopped it.
That led to a hold on the nomination by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, so his office could dig deeper.
That investigation concluded this week – and Grassley’s team said Garcetti may have lied to lawmakers.
“Based on a preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that Mayor Garcetti likely knew or should have known that Rick Jacobs was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others,” the report states.
Grassley’s team said the harassment including unwanted touching, kissing and racist comments such as “China-man,” much of which was exposed in a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department officer Matthew Garza, who had been on Garcetti’s security detail.
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And that may be only scratching the surface, with the website LAist reporting last year on legal testimony alleging that Jacobs “sexually harassed men and women, including city staff and others.”
At least one infamous moment even has a photo to back it up.
“By all accounts, Mr. Jacobs’ behavior was widely known and talked about. It was pervasive, widespread, and notorious – to the point that Mr. Jacobs sexually harassed someone in front of the Mayor for a picture that would be memorialized for all time,” the Grassley report states. “Such overt conduct suggests at best that Mr. Jacobs had no fear of any repercussions.”
The photo in question was widely circulated across social media.
Take a look —
A photograph showing one of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s closest advisors making a sexually provocative gesture, while the mayor stands nearby, raises new questions about Garcetti’s contention that he had no knowledge of inappropriate behavior.https://t.co/m3HsUpHoVJ
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) November 21, 2020
“It’s not good for Mayor Garcetti because it makes it look like he lied under oath to the senators,” Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, told ABC7 in Los Angeles. “It makes it looks like he couldn’t run an office without sexual harassment and racist comments, and that’s not the person you want as the ambassador.”
Axios said Grassley’s team examined of 26 depositions related to the case and interviewed 15 witness, including one they described to Politico as a “whistleblower.”
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But there’s one thing it didn’t include – and that’s a conversation with Garcetti himself, who didn’t cooperate with the probe.
Rather than cut ties to the embattled mayor, the Biden administration is circling the wagons.
“The President has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him,” the White House said in a statement that dismissed Grassley’s report as a partisan “hit job” and insisted the allegations were “conclusively debunked.”
A report by the city of Los Angeles conducted before the nomination also cleared Garcetti, according to The Hill.
But others have questioned those findings – and not just Republicans.
Former Garcetti aide Naomi Seligman told Politico that the mayor “enabled this repeated pattern of sexual harassment of abuse” and that he “fostered a culture of denial, intimidation and silence and then he retaliated against those who spoke out and worked with his staff to cover everything up.”
Seligman, a longtime progressive activist, gave Grassley credit for how he’s handled the issue.
“Often, enablers get a pass,” she told Politico. “Powerful enablers are the reason that so many are victimized, and that’s why I’m doing this.”
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With Grassley’s hold lifted, the Senate could soon vote on Garcetti. But with the body split 50-50, a single defector could tank the his nomination. Last month, aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., admitted to Axios that they don’t have the 50 votes yet.
But if Grassley’s report is any indication, Garcetti might find himself staying in Los Angeles.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert.