Hillary Clinton has said she should not have let a senior campaign adviser keep his job after a female employee accused him of sexual harassment in 2007, saying: “I wish I’d done it differently”.
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate wrote on Facebook: “The most important work of my life has been to support and empower women.
“So 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 behaviour. The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”
Mrs Clinton said senior campaign staff and legal counsel confirmed that the behaviour by faith-based adviser Burns Strider had occurred after the woman came forward. Her campaign manager recommended that Mr Strider should be removed, but Mrs Clinton said she instead demoted him, docked his pay, set up counselling, separated him from the victim and warned that he would lose his job if he did it again.
The New York Times reported that Mr Strider declined to attend the counselling sessions. He told BuzzFeed News that he did not consider his behaviour “excessive”.
Mrs Clinton said there were no further complaints against Mr Strider during the rest of the campaign, but admitted she is troubled that he was sacked from a job leading an independent political action committee supporting Mrs Clinton over inappropriate behaviour several years later.
“I believed the punishment was severe and the message to him unambiguous,” she said, in a post published shortly before the start of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. “I also believe in second chances. But sometimes they’re squandered.”
She said the recurrence of the alleged behaviour “troubles me greatly” and led her to question whether it would have been better if she had sacked him. “There is no way I can go back 10 years and know the answers,” she wrote, “but you can bet I’m asking myself these questions right now.”
Mrs Clinton said that her first thought after the Times report “was for the young woman involved” and that she reached out to her “to see how she was doing, but also to help me reflect on my decision and its consequences”.
“She expressed appreciation that she worked on a campaign where she knew she could come forward without fear,” Mrs Clinton said.
“She was glad that her accusations were taken seriously, that there was a clear process in place for dealing with harassment, and that it was followed. Most importantly, she told me that for the remainder of the campaign, she flourished in her new role.” She said the woman “read every word of this and has given me permission to share it”.