Why do so many politicians — including noted women's rights advocate Carolyn Maloney — still support sexual harasser Micah Kellner's campaign for New York City Council?
Four years ago, Assemblyman Micah Kellner made life "horrible" for a young staffer who resisted his advances. “It was a terrible poisonous situation.” a source who worked in Kellner’s office at the time told the New York Daily News. “She was treated very badly after she told him to stop. He completely changed the way he treated her in the office ... He picked apart everything she did ... It was the definition of a hostile environment.”
The 20something aide who rebuffed Kellner submitted 15 pages of internet chat transcripts in 2009 to Bill Collins, who ran the Assembly’s legal staff as counsel to the majority party. Given the flack Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's received for burying similar (but way worse) allegations against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, it's not all that surprising that the New York Times just broke the news this month:
Mr. Kellner encouraged the woman to play Scrabble with him on Facebook while conversing through the Google Talk Internet messaging service. In one exchange that took place well after midnight, Mr. Kellner told the woman that he had hired her because “you were cute during the interview.” He asked if she had a boyfriend and told her, “I guess secretly I didn’t want you to have one,” adding, “I like being the only man in your life” and “Don’t cheat on me.”
“I wouldn’t mind falling asleep with you but not remotely,” he wrote. “Did I offend?”
Kellner apologized in a statement:
“Over four years ago, for a few weeks while I was still single, I exchanged instant messages with a female member of my staff that were flirtatious,” he said. “It was inappropriate. I was wrong and it was stupid. When I was told that my staffer felt the messages were unprofessional, I immediately stopped and regretted placing her in that position. I was sorry then and I am sorry now.”
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (whom he hopes to replace) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer weren't having it; they withdrew their endorsements. But 50 members of powerful East Side democratic clubs sent the below email yesterday in support. Sure, sexual harassment is "serious," but it happened over four years ago and he "immediately apologized" (once everyone found out) so it's all good! Especially given his "unequivocal opposition to the proposed East 91st Street Waste Transfer Station."
Rep Carolyn Maloney hasn't withdrawn her support for her onetime staffer, either, although she gave a stern statement to Capital NY:
"I have spent my professional life fighting for greater protection for, and fairer treatment of, women in the workplace. The media reports about Assemblyman Micah Kellner are very serious and troubling. I condemn this highly inappropriate behavior. Assemblyman Kellner has rightly apologized and I hope the Assembly Ethics Committee moves quickly and thoroughly with its review.”
But her name is still on his campaign materials.
Image via Kellner's official bio.