A sex scandal is rocking the potential future presidential campaign of Democrat Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Erika Andiola was the press secretary for Latino outreach, then later the political director for Our Revolution, a progressive organization that spun off from the 2016 Sanders campaign.
She told NPR that she recalls a phone call in spring 2016 with senior officials on the Latino outreach team. The alleged case of sexual harassment first reported by The New York Times was brought up, as well as broader complaints about pay equity for women on the campaign.
Female staff members and interns also expressed concerns that they were being made to do unimportant work compared to their male counterparts.
The response to their concerns, Andiola said, was disappointing.
“I remember being very frustrated around that call,” she said. “They did not take the complaints seriously, at least in my perception.”
Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman and a surrogate for the Sanders campaign during the 2016 presidential primary, said she was contemporaneously aware of these same allegations of “misogyny” during the campaign.
“There was essentially a cover-up” when issues were raised, she told NPR.
Flores added that sexism isn’t an issue isolated to the Sanders campaign, saying it commonly occurs in campaigns.
“Frankly, I do think it’s a little unfair … that the attention and all of the conversation is including Bernie’s name, because this isn’t just something that’s limited to Bernie’s campaign,” Flores said.
Responding to allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment during the 2016 campaign, former Sanders presidential campaign manager Jeff Weaver acknowledged shortcomings during that period.
“Speaking generally about 2016, was it too male? Yes. Was it too white? Yes. Would this be a priority to remedy on any future campaign? Definitely, and we share deeply in the urgency to make the necessary changes,” Weaver said in a statement, first provided to The Times. “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.”
A Sanders aide told NPR that they intend to meet with those who signed the letter first reported by Politico.
On Wednesday, Sanders’ team released the sexual harassment policy for their 2018 senatorial re-election campaign, which showed that a third-party hotline to report sexual harassment had been established. Andiola said that she was unaware of any such line during the 2016 campaign.
The 2018 Senate campaign also had a mandatory briefing for all staff about their “zero-tolerance” sexual harassment policy and required supervisors to report any complaint of harassment they received.
“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 on CNN, stressing the steps that his 2018 senate re-election campaign had taken.