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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

House Republicans Circulated Partially Nude Images of Former NFL Cheerleaders

GOP lawmakers sent their own Washington Commanders report, which included photos of "breasts, buttocks and genital areas," to staffers and media outlets.

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Rachel Engleson, former Washington Commanders director of marketing and client relations, during a congressional hearing on sexual harassment in her former workplace in February 2022.
Rachel Engleson, former Washington Commanders director of marketing and client relations, during a congressional hearing on sexual harassment in her former workplace in February 2022.
Photo: Graeme Jennings / POOL / AFP (Getty Images)

This story has been updated with comment from the House Oversight Committee Democrats.

Last week, the House Oversight Committee released its report on Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and harassment in the team’s workplace environment. But Republicans on the committee were apparently unsatisfied with the evidence laid out and sent to GOP staffers and members of the media a separate memorandum with evidence they found important to the investigation, including partially nude images—essentially anonymous porn—of former NFL cheerleaders. Now, the women’s lawyers are demanding the swift removal of the images.

The report was the result of months of investigations, hearings, and testimony, all dominated by Democratic lawmakers. Republicans had long been dissatisfied with the investigation; when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell testified before the committee in June, Republicans on the panel made a mockery of the inquiry, instead droning on about unrelated issues and largely ignoring the issue of sexual harassment.

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The photos in question were leaked to the New York Times in 2021; Bruce Allen, the Commanders’ former general manager and team president, had originally sent them to former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and several other men in the NFL in 2014.

In a Tuesday letter, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent 40 former employees of the Washington Commanders, including some of the women depicted in these images, demanded that Republicans remove the “sexualized and salacious” images of their clients. The women’s faces were reportedly blacked out, but the photos still plainly depicted their “breasts, buttocks and genital areas.”

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A spokesperson for Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the Oversight Committee, sent Jezebel a statement saying that Republicans believe Democrats “cherry-picked” evidence to suit their narrative and that committee “staff took steps to ensure all sensitive images involving cheerleaders were redacted and their identities kept confidential. As we have said from the beginning, the Oversight Committee is not the proper venue for this investigation.”

Just to be perfectly clear: House Republicans circulated images of naked women to their colleagues—retraumatizing women who’ve already faced harassment—and are now trying to explain away those photos as “evidence” while also openly undermining the committee’s efforts. Their actions are just as insidious as Allen’s, the man who sent them in the first place.

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Banks and Katz, who also represented Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement that the images left their clients “humiliated and incensed.” Republican staff members and “numerous” media outlets were on the receiving end of the photos in question, according to ESPN. (The photos have not been made public.)

“Obviously these photographs could have been referenced in the memorandum but not attached,” Banks and Katz wrote. “Our clients also want assurances these photographs will never be used in such a manner again…Rather than show consideration to the many women who came forward to the Committee to share their experiences of objectification and sexual exploitation while employed by the team, Republican members of the Committee chose to subject them to more of the same.”

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On behalf of the Committee Chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), a Democratic committee spokeswoman told Jezebel, “Our report exposed what is possible when those in power work to maintain a culture that glorifies sexual harassment. No organization should ever disseminate sexualized images of an individual without their permission, least of all a body charged with protecting women from sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. We hope Committee Republicans will hear the concerns of the women pictured in their report and take overdue steps to protect their privacy.”

The House Committee’s report detailed how Snyder not only permitted sexual harassment and the creation of a toxic workplace, but was also a participant. Dozens of employees at the Commanders, the report concluded, were harmed by this work culture for more than two decades. An investment bank hired by Snyder is currently moving forward with the potential sale of the franchise, according to the Washington Post, as the NFL continues to side step questions about the investigation.