A top adviser on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign forcibly kissed a subordinate, Politico reported Wednesday, just days after more than two dozen people who worked on Sanders’ 2016 campaign asked to meet with Sanders and his top aides to discuss sexual misconduct on the 2016 campaign.
Robert Becker — who served as deputy national field director and worked on Sanders’ campaign in California, Iowa, Michigan, and New York — went out with several other Sanders staffers on the last night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in July 2016, Politico reported. While there, the now-50-year-old Becker reportedly told a 20-something staffer that he had always wanted to have sex with her.
He also mentioned her riding his “pole,” and, later on in the night, grabbed her head and kissed her without her consent, the woman and three other people who either saw what happened or learned about it shortly thereafter told Politico.
The woman, who was not named by Politico, did not formally report the incident at the time. But after she recently received a call from Becker, the woman told some of Sanders’ top 2016 advisers what had happened. Becker is not employed by the Sanders’ campaign, but he has traveled the country laying the groundwork for another potential Sanders presidential run.
“It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020,” the woman told Politico. “You can’t run for president of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”
Two aides also told Politico that Becker had a habit of looking up potential female hires on Facebook and rating their looks, including, sometimes, asking male colleagues to come over and check out the women.
“I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct,” Becker told Politico in a statement. Of the hiring allegations, he added, “During the process of routine background checks being conducted, I would occasionally be asked to review potentially questionable or damaging social media posts of potential hires. My singular concern during this entire process was to assess whether an individual would be an outstanding political organizer — no other factors played into our hiring decisions.”
Sanders’ principal campaign committee, Friends of Bernie Sanders, told Politico in a statement that Becker would not work on any of the senator’s future campaigns. “To be clear: No one who committed sexual harassment in 2016 would be back if there were a 2020 campaign," the committee added in a statement.
Last week, the New York Times reported that former supporters of Sanders have spent the last few weeks sharing stories of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination on the campaign trail. One female worker told the Times that a campaign surrogate had run his hands through her hair in a “sexual way”; when the worker told her manager, he reportedly laughed and said, “I bet you would have liked it if he were younger.”
The manager told the Times he didn’t remember doing that, but had instead taken the worker’s complaint seriously.
Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he was not aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct or pay discrimination on his 2016 presidential run. “I certainly apologize to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately. And of course, if I run, we will do better next time,” Sanders said.
Cover: Supporters cheer and waive campaign posters as Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., speaks at the Loras College Athletic and Wellness Center in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sunday, August 16, 2015. The "town meeting," was the fourth campaign event of the day for Sanders. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)