Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday night that she should have fired a top aide in her 2008 presidential campaign accused of sexual harassment.
“I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior,” Clinton said in a statement on Facebook. “The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”
The most important work of my life has been to support and empower women. I’ve tried to do so here at home, around the…
Clinton’s expression of regret over the way she handled the allegations against the aide, Burns Strider, came less than a week after it was first reported that she had overruled a recommendation from two campaign advisers that he be dismissed. The report of her actions has touched off an extended debate on the responsibilities of the most prominent woman in American politics when confronted with sexual harassment.
She posted the lengthy statement about 15 minutes before President Donald Trump entered the House chamber to deliver his first State of the Union address.
Strider, who was Clinton’s faith-based adviser and who has frequently sent her scripture readings over the last several years, was accused by a younger female subordinate of repeated sexual harassment in late 2007. The two advisers, after researching the complaint, recommended that he be fired.
“In the end,” Clinton said, “I decided to demote him, docking his pay; separate him from the woman; assign her to work directly for my then deputy campaign manager; put in place technical barriers to his emailing her; and require that he seek counseling. He would also be warned that any subsequent harassment of any kind toward anyone would result in immediate termination.”
“I did this because I didn’t think firing him was the best solution to the problem,” she said. “He needed to be punished, change his behavior and understand why his actions were wrong. The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe. I thought both could happen without him losing his job. I believed the punishment was severe and the message to him unambiguous.”
About five years later, Strider was hired to lead a super PAC supporting Clinton and run by a key ally, David Brock. He was fired from that group after he was accused by another young woman of sexual harassment.
Sometimes, she added, second chances are squandered: “In this case, while there were no further complaints against him for the duration of the campaign, several years after working for me, he was terminated from another job for inappropriate behavior. That reoccurrence troubles me greatly, and it alone makes clear that the lesson I hoped he had learned while working for me went unheeded.”
Clinton said that at the time “I believed the punishment I imposed was severe and fit the offense.” She added that employers today “would be well served to take actions at least as severe when confronted with problems now” and said that included “the very media outlet that broke this story” — a reference to The New York Times.
“They recently opted to suspend and reinstate one of their journalists who exhibited similarly inappropriate behavior, rather than terminate him,” she said. “A decade from now, that decision may not look as tough as it feels today.”
Clinton was referring to Glenn Thrush, a reporter for The Times who was removed from the White House beat and suspended without pay for two months after he faced accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior. He returned to work this week.
Clinton did not break off her relationship with Strider. He attended a party for Clinton’s recent book, “What Happened,” and she acknowledged him in the book.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Strider said about his conduct toward the woman in the campaign, “I didn’t consider it excessive, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t to her.”
Clinton said that the woman told her in a call on Friday that she felt pleased with how the situation was adjudicated at the time and that she felt as if she had been heard.
“I was inspired by my conversation with this young woman to express my own thinking on the matter,” she said. As for why she had waited until Tuesday night to express it, she said, “The answer is simple: I’ve been grappling with this and thinking about how best to share my thoughts.”
Noting that the episode was unusual “in that a woman complained to a woman who brought the issue to a woman who was the ultimate decision-maker,” she asked: “Does a woman have a responsibility to come down even harder on the perpetrator? I don’t know. But I do believe that a woman boss has an extra responsibility to look out for the women who work for her, and to better understand how issues like these can affect them.”