MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — DFL gubernatorial candidate Lori Swanson breaks her silence amidst controversy surrounding her running mate.
In an anonymously-sourced article, MinnPost criticized how Congressman Rick Nolan handled a staffer accused of sexual harassment. In response, groups called for Swanson to address it and for her to drop Nolan.
“This is not a confusing moment, the choice is very clear,” said TakeAction Minnesota’s Eliane Farhat. “Times up.”
The group of about 20 stood outside the governor’s office, demanding answers from Swanson.
“Leadership means speaking up about things that matter,” said Pastor Laurie Eaton with Faith in Minnesota.
For more than 24 hours, WCCO-TV asked Swanson to respond to the MinnPost article that included reports of women who claimed a high-level staffer in Nolan’s office sexually harassed them.
That staffer was terminated, but later hired again less than a year later in 2016 as an independent contractor. He was then fired after complaints.
“We call on Rep. Nolan to step down immediately as Attorney General Swanson’s gubernatorial running mate,” said Mark Schultz, executive director of Land Stewardship Action.”
Just after 3 p.m. Friday, Swanson gave this response:
Sexual harassment has no place in the workplace or society. Congressman Nolan has apologized to the women who were harassed by their male co-worker, and for his own comments. Congressman Nolan has a long, effective, and distinguished track record representing Minnesota and has fought for gender equality throughout his entire career. As the first female attorney general in Minnesota history who is running to be our state’s first female governor, the Swanson-Nolan Administration will work hard to promote opportunities and equality for women. Sexual harassment will have no place in the Swanson-Nolan Administration.
Congressman Nolan released this statement:
Women, who have talked to MinnPost anonymously, have stated that they were harassed and intimidated by a former older male member of my Congressional staff. I believed them in 2015 when they reported the harassment and when my chief of staff, Jodie Torkelson, promptly investigated the allegations and let the male staffer go. In hindsight, my Congressional campaign committee should not have retained the individual as an independent contractor and paid him $1,666 to work off-site for a brief period of time in 2016. When a concern about this was brought to my attention, his status as an independent contractor was immediately terminated.
Though I am told that at least two of the women quoted anonymously in the story now work for my opponents or their allies, that doesn’t change or diminish in any way the fact that the harassment by the male staffer was wrong and should not be tolerated in any work environment. I apologize to these women that it did, and for any insensitive comments I may have made.
I have tried hard during my life to show respect for and give opportunities to women. My aunt Eleanor Nolan, for whom I worked in the office, was one of the few female attorneys in northern Minnesota in the 1940s, became the first female judge in Minnesota, and taught me at a young age that women deserve equal workplace treatment and opportunities. In the 1970s, I was an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, to ensure equality for women in all spheres of society. As a 74 year old male, I am excited to be on the ticket with Lori Swanson, a trailblazer who is a generation younger than me and who will serve Minnesota proud as the first female governor of Minnesota.
A statement from Ruth Stanoch, with Swanson for Governor:
Women deserve full respect and equality in the workplace and in society and should be permitted and encouraged to speak their truth. Attorney General Swanson is the first female attorney general in Minnesota history and is running to be the first female governor. The Swanson Administration will have Zero Tolerance for sexual harassment of any kind. Congressman Nolan’s Congressional chief of staff indicates that she promptly let the male employee in their Congressional office go in 2015 after questions about his conduct were raised. Congressman Nolan has indicated that, in hindsight, his Congressional campaign should not have paid the male employee $1,600 as an independent contractor to work off-site for a brief period of time in 2016.
Congressman Nolan has a long and distinguished career representing Minnesota. The Swanson-Nolan Administration will work hard to get things done for all Minnesotans, and their Administration will fairly and aggressively enforce the laws against workplace discrimination. MinnPost has stated that central players in its anonymously-sourced story now work for Tim Walz/Erin Murphy. Two weeks ago, a poll was published showing Swanson-Nolan with a commanding double-digit lead over Walz and Murphy. It is unfortunate that candidates who are behind in the polls seek to exploit this matter for their political advantage.
A statement from Joe Radinovich, Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager:
When I was the campaign manager for Rick Nolan’s 2016 re-election, I was encouraged to hire a staffer who had previously worked in the Congressman’s official office. When allegations of past sexual misconduct were brought to my attention, I took immediate action and insisted the campaign terminate its relationship with Swiderski, ultimately firing him myself. Every workplace should be free from the fear of harassment. I stood with the women in this story then, and I continue to do so today.
A statement from fellow DFL gubernatorial candidate Rep. Erin Murphy:
Respecting women and treating everyone with dignity should not be negotiable. All people, of all genders, should feel safe where they work. Yet all too often people in power ignore bad behavior, refuse to take action, or minimize the trauma of sexual harassment and sexual violence. As long as we condone this behavior, it won’t change. Congressman Rick Nolan enabled and protected a predator while engaging in truly reprehensible behavior himself. Still, Attorney General Lori Swanson has remained silent. Engaging in sexual harassment or sexual assault – or sweeping it under the rug – is unacceptable. Lori Swanson’s silence reveals a troubling lack of leadership at a moment that demands it, especially from someone seeking to serve all Minnesotans as our next Governor.
A statement from Murphy’s running mate, Rep. Erin Maye-Quade:
People are quick to dismiss the experiences of women who are survivors of sexual harassment. They are quick to blame victims and minimize the actions of people in power. From his actions, it is clear that Congressman Nolan created an environment where this behavior could fester. He chose not to believe women and to make light of the ongoing harassment they faced. He failed to stand up for them in their time of need. That is deeply disappointing, and not fitting of someone in public service.
A statement from fellow DFL gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tim Walz:
Everyone deserves safety and respect in their workplace. The leaders within the workplace must ensure that happens. The predatory behavior that occurred in Congressman Nolan’s office is an inexcusable failure of leadership. This type of behavior would not be tolerated in a Walz-Flanagan Administration. I’ve called on our Republican opponents to break their silence on important issues before, and I’m calling for the same leadership from Attorney General Lori Swanson now.
A statement from Rachael Grooms, Republican Party of Minnesota spokesperson:
The lack of response from Lori Swanson and her campaign team regarding accusations of sexual harassment against Rick Nolan’s staff member and close friend is inexcusable, and a direct reflection on the type of leadership she would display if elected as Minnesota’s next governor. Nolan’s failure to deal with sexual harassment on his staff proves that he does not represent the morals of Minnesotans and should not be running for public office. Lori Swanson should denounce this behavior and all forms of harassment. Minnesotans deserve to know whether Lori finds it acceptable for her running mate to hold this dismissive attitude towards sexual harassment.