A former top aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti says that Democratic U.S. senators who voted last week to approve the mayor’s nomination to become the next U.S. ambassador to India have “abandoned” her and others who spoke out about sexual harassment.
In an interview with Los Angeles, former Garcetti communications director Naomi Seligman said she wasn’t surprised that Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the mayor’s nomination, but that “doesn’t mean it’s not hard to accept.”
The panel vote was seen as the last major obstacle before the nomination will go to the full senate for a vote next, where Garcetti’s confirmation is widely expected. “But this is not over,” Seligman insists. “I think there is still time for senators to understand how the mayor witnessed, tolerated, and enabled abuse. And still time for them to ask the hard questions they’ve avoided until now.”
Seligman is one of four former aides to Mayor Garcetti who accused Rick Jacobs, a former mayoral adviser and friend, of various acts of sexual harassment. She claims Garcetti was aware of his aides actions and did nothing to stop them. Jacobs has firmly denied the charges against him. Garcetti has repeatedly insisted he had no knowledge of any concerns or accusations about Jacobs, a claim that he repeated under oath.
Despite those accusations and a lawsuit against the city, national Democrats have continued to rally around Garcetti, including at the White House where President Joe Biden rewarded the mayor, an early and important supporter of his campaign, with a plum ambassador nomination in July ’21. A White House spokesperson said the president believes Garcetti when he says he was unaware of misbehavior by his staff.
Seligman claims that Jacobs, who is openly gay, held her and forcibly kissed her on the lips, and she testified that she witnessed Jacobs sexually harassing a police officer on the mayor’s security detail. She claims the president support of Garcetti is disingenuous. “When the White House was asked about the sexual harassment case their reaction was, ‘Oh, the mayor said he didn’t witness anything and we believe him,’” she said. “What they were saying was that victims’ experiences don’t matter. That the testimony I and many other key witnesses gave under oath didn’t matter. It’s not that they didn’t believe us—they just didn’t care.
“It’s confounding that, on the one hand, President Biden would have urged Governor Cuomo to resign, but on the other he would nominate a person who has enabled and covered up sexual abuse as ambassador to one of our most important allies. That blows my mind.”
Garcetti is not the only big-city mayor nominated by the Biden administration who has faced pushback from party progressives. Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, tapped to become ambassador to Japan, was sharply criticized over his handling of the police shooting of 17-year-old Lacquan McDonald. Emanuel was accused of covering up the shooting after his office refused to make police dashcam footage public for more than a year and only did so when a state court forced his hand. Ultimately, three Democratic senators voted against Emanuel, but eight Republican votes helped put him over the top.
One senator—Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire—did bring up the sexual-harassment charges against Jacobs during the recent Garcetti hearings, but his nomination has thus far generated much less attention or concern from the left than Emanuel’s did.
Seligman is not happy about that. Several Democratic senators “said they were committed to #MeToo and women, and they did not live up to those values,” she says, calling the support of the mayor from Democrats “pathetic.”
“Where’s Kirsten Gillibrand? Where’s Elizabeth Warren? Where are these warriors for women? That guts me,” she added. “Has #MeToo ended in the senate? If we don’t have them, who do we have?”
While Seligman says she does not regret speaking up in her deposition, she adds that the experience has finished her career working in Democratic politics.
“I started in Democratic politics in college,” she said. “I interned at NOW when I was 17 years old. I’ve been a women’s advocate and a loyal Democrat my entire life, and I feel really abandoned by the party I love.”
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