For Bernie Sanders, Claims of Sexism in 2016 Campaign Hang Over 2020 Bid – The New York Times

“Was it too male? Yes. Was it too white? Yes,” he said. “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. In 2016, as the size of our campaign exploded, we made efforts to make it a positive experience for people. That there was a failure pains me very much.”

In interviews, women told of makeshift living accommodations on the road, where they were asked to sleep in rooms along with male co-workers they didn’t know. Women who had access to salary records were taken aback to learn that some female staff members made thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts.

Two delegates who supported Mr. Sanders two years ago recently told his staff that he can’t run for president again without addressing the sexism they believe surfaced in his last campaign.

“There was an entire wave of rotten sexual harassment that seemingly was never dealt with,” one of the delegates wrote in a December email, obtained by The New York Times, to a Sanders political strategist.

Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s campaign committee, said in a response to questions from The Times that there were a number of actions taken during the 2016 campaign regarding harassment and sexism, including employee counseling and a campaign-wide review to standardize pay, and that there was a set of procedures and guidelines for workplace conduct that staff members were required to read. It also said it had developed a new harassment policy for Mr. Sanders’s Senate campaign last year.

Allegations of sexism surfaced during Mr. Sanders’s campaign in 2016, when many of his male fans were derogatorily dubbed “Bernie Bros” for their aggressive online attacks against female reporters and supporters of Hillary Clinton. But they did not overshadow the electrifying nature of his insurgent challenge.

Circumstances have changed since then. Mr. Sanders is no longer an outsider, but an established leader who will be held to a higher standard. And regarding the treatment of women, he must now grapple with the effects of the #MeToo movement.

Political campaigns can be grueling experiences for both the women and men involved. But some involved said they considered the treatment of women on the Sanders campaign especially upsetting because the senator positioned himself as a champion of progressive ideals and equality, according to interviews and messages shared on Facebook.

“I don’t think he has to be the vehicle or the platform for the movement that emerged from his campaign,” said Sarah Slamen, who worked for the campaign in Texas, was the state coordinator in Louisiana and helped build out Our Revolution, a progressive organization born from Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign.

“Do you know how hard that is for me to say after working so hard for him?” she said.

Ms. Slamen quit the organization at the end of 2016 after she said she was berated by a male member of the Our Revolution steering committee for suggesting an organizing plan. In emails reviewed by The Times, she raised issues about sexist behavior with committee members who saw the incident and Our Revolution’s national board of directors. She said she received no reassurance that anything would change.

In recent weeks, a Facebook group for campaign alumni has become a sounding board for complaints about harassment, lewd comments and gender discrimination. Some alumni have requested a meeting with the senator and his campaign leadership team to address the “overall toxic atmosphere of the 2016 campaign,” according to a screenshot of a post viewed by The Times. Politico first reported on the request.

Ms. Di Lauro, the former strategist in Nevada, was emphatic in her own Facebook posts. “I have to speak up about this now because I hope it will be of service to the next Sanders campaign,” she wrote on Dec. 7.

In her interview with The Times, Ms. Di Lauro said she told several people who were high up in the campaign, including Rich Pelletier, who served as national field director, about her encounter in Nevada with the surrogate, a Mexican game show host named Marco Antonio Regil. But she felt she was not taken seriously by the campaign.

Other women backed up Ms. Mendieta’s allegations, and a letter signed by dozens of former campaign staffers and surrogates was circulated urging progressives to withdraw their endorsements of Mr. Carmona. (He lost his special election primary bid in 2017.)

In an interview, Ms. Mendieta said that she complained multiple times to Mr. Velazquez and Mr. Pelletier about Mr. Carmona and was repeatedly ignored, at one point being told by Mr. Velazquez that she should forgive Mr. Carmona’s behavior because he was “macho.”

Mr. Velazquez said that he does not remember making that remark or anything like it.

Ms. Mendieta was among the Latino outreach team members who she said were expected to stay in a run-down house in Chicago in March 2016. When she arrived, she said she was told she was supposed to sleep in a room with three men she did not know.

“I was shaking with fear,’’ she said. “Literally, I remember thinking to myself, ‘What am I going to do?’” She said she reported the incident to Mr. Pelletier.

The campaign committee said that “the challenge of finding staffer housing is one that plagues every large campaign.” It said it knew of one instance that was brought to the attention of senior leaders, including Mr. Weaver, the campaign manager, and that both Mr. Weaver and the chief operating officer “ordered that staff never be housed in coed hotel rooms again.”

Some weeks later, Ms. Mendieta and other members of the Latino outreach team shared their concerns about Mr. Carmona and Mr. Velazquez during a conference call with Mr. Pelletier, Ms. Mendieta said. The Times has reviewed an email scheduling the call, and another staff member who participated confirmed the substance of the discussion.

Mr. Carmona was promoted out of the Latino outreach group during the campaign and named a deputy national political director.

Mr. Carmona, in an email, denied the allegations that he was demeaning and said, “All sexual harassment and issues of discrimination should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.”

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