Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat from Connecticut, has apologized for keeping a top aide on the payroll despite having learned he had been named in reports of abuse.
A report from The Washington Post alleged that the congresswoman wrote a letter of recommendation for her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, after entering a nondisclosure agreement with him. Despite the fact Baker had been accused of physically assaulting Anna Kain, another one of her aides, Esty still kept him on the payroll and then sent him off with a letter of recommendation.
The move may seem hypocritical as the Connecticut Democrat has served as one of the most pro-women voices in Washington, D.C.
After the abuse allegations, Kain told CNN that she took out a restraining order against Esty’s former chief of staff. According to her petition, Baker punched her in the back and then “repeatedly screamed” at her in Esty’s Capitol Hill office. Baker also allegedly threatened to kill Kain.
In a statement on Thursday, Esty apologized for allowing the case of abuse happen.
“I am sorry that I failed to protect her and provide her with the safe and respectful work environment that every employee deserves,” the Connecticut congresswoman said. “To this survivor, and to anyone else on my team who was hurt by my failure to see what was going on in my office, I am so sorry.”
"I must do better," she added.
The lawmaker reportedly requested that Baker receive counseling after learning about the abuse allegations. She also opened an internal investigation into the allegations.
Despite knowing about the case, however, Esty kept Baker on the payroll and went as far as writing a recommendation letter for him, even though she claimed to be “horrified” and “angry” over the stories of abuse.
Kain told CNN that things must change in D.C. so that people like her do not go through the same suffering.
“If you work on the Hill and are going through this, I want you to know that it's real, it's a problem, and nothing about it is OK. I hear you, and I believe you. It is not your fault, and you are not alone. And you are stronger than you think you are," Kain said.
Esty said that after learning that the cases of abuse were systemic, she put in place a series of changes to make sure that these incidents wouldn't happen again.
“[T]hrough the review process [regarding Baker’s case] I learned that the threat of violence was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff. At which point, I hired a new chief of staff, made changes to senior staff, changed employment policy, and instituted mandatory harassment trainings," she said.
In a statement released by the National Republican Congressional Committee, spokesman Chris Martin called for Esty’s resignation. He dubbed her attempt to keep Baker’s story under wraps a “cover-up.”
“There is no place for someone who protects abusers in Congress, and she should resign immediately," he said.
While it is odd that Esty signed a nondisclosure agreement with Baker and even went as far as writing him a recommendation letter, the lawmaker insisted that she did all she could have.
“I was not the perpetrator of this," she told the Hartford Courant. "I think there's a whole record of what I've accomplished."
Whether or not Esty had a hand in trying to keep this story from turning into a scandal, we must all agree that it’s time Washington D.C. politicians work on updating the systems put in place to avoid this type of abuse and harassment.
After all, how can these lawmakers lecture the nation on fighting and putting an end to assault when they allow it to thrive in their own offices?
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Wikimedia Commons, US House Office of Photography