On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders will meet with women who have said they experienced sexual harassment and gender discrimination while working on his 2016 presidential campaign, according to sources close to Sanders with knowledge of the meeting.
In the wake of reports by Politico and the New York Times about a work environment former staffers described as male dominated and hostile to women, the Vermont senator arranged for a number of women and men to travel to Washington to meet with him and members of his senior staff. Sanders paid for their flights and hotel accommodations through his campaign account, the sources said.
The meeting will be run by Jenny Yang and Pamela Coukos, two facilitators from Working IDEAL, a consultant group for workplace inclusion and diversity.
Sanders responded to the reports by apologizing to “any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately” and insisting he knew nothing about the harassment at the time. “Of course if I run,” he told CNN earlier this month, “we will do better next time.”
In that same interview, Sanders also took a defensive posture — “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case,” he said — and later took pains to adopt a different tone. The Wednesday meeting, aides have said, will be an opportunity for the 77-year-old senator to hear directly from the women who worked for a campaign that was hastily constructed and run mostly by men, without a traditional human resources department.
The meeting follows a formal request from a group of men and women who worked on the 2016 campaign, specifically on “the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.”
Over the last month, women have said that the Sanders campaign played host to sexism and sexual harassment. The New York Times detailed behavior that women who worked for Sanders in 2016 described as demeaning, and what some perceived as a pay disparity between men and women on the campaign; women described reporting inappropriate behavior to more senior members of the campaign and no action taking place in response.
Last week, Politico reported that a young woman who worked for Sanders’ 2016 campaign said that Robert Becker, who managed the candidate’s Iowa campaign, forcibly kissed her in Philadelphia during the Democratic convention. In a statement to Politico, Becker “categorically” denied allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Jeff Weaver, the 2016 campaign manager and a longtime aide to Sanders, has said he would continue to advise Sanders if he runs again, but would not manage a second campaign.
“Was it too male? Yes. Was it too white? Yes,” Weaver told the Times. “Would this be a priority to remedy on any future campaign? Definitely, and we share deeply in the urgency for all of us to make change.”
Bernie Sanders is 77. An earlier version of this post misstated his age.