By Ted Johnson
UPDATED, with additional comment: A new Senate report concludes that Eric Garcetti “likely knew or should have known” about alleged sexual harassment by a former top aide, despite the Los Angeles mayor’s denial that he was aware of such conduct.
The report and investigation, conducted by Senate staff at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), raises new doubts about Garcetti’s pending nomination to be ambassador to India.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared Garcetti’s nomination with no opposition earlier this year, but a whistleblower, Garcetti’s former communications director Naomi Seligman, has led an effort for a more thorough investigation. Grassley put a hold on the nomination and initiated the probe in March.
Rick Jacobs, who served as deputy chief of staff and later an outside adviser, was accused of improper conduct in a 2020 lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza, who claims Garcetti witnessed the behavior but turned a blind eye to it. Jacobs has denied the claims.
“Based on a preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that Mayor Garcetti likely knew or should have known that Rick Jacobs was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others,” the report concludes. (Read it here).
Garcetti has denied the allegations in the past — and did so again during his hearing, telling the Senate panel he has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. The mayor has claimed he didn’t know about Garza’s accusations until the lawsuit became public in July 2020.
But the report says that the “testimony and documents reviewed by investigators, when considered alongside Mr. Jacobs’ own admissions, the mayor’s admission of his awareness of Mr. Jacobs’ habits to kiss and hug others, and the apparent frequency, notoriety, and widespread acknowledgment of Mr. Jacobs’ behavior by so many individuals both inside and outside City Hall who interacted with the Mayor’s office, weigh strongly against the notion that the Mayor had no knowledge of it. It is extremely unlikely that he would not have been aware of Mr. Jacobs’ behavior.”
Grassley’s staff said that Jacobs and 11 individuals currently working for or close to the mayor declined to speak to them. They also said that Garcetti refused to meet after an interview was requested on three different occasions.
“While I strongly disagree with the opinion reached in this report, I am pleased that Senator Grassley has lifted his hold, and hope that my nomination by the President can be considered by the Senate soon,” Garcetti said in a statement.
Dae Levine, chief communications officer for Garcetti, said, “No new facts were uncovered in this report, and Mayor Garcetti strongly reaffirms the simple truth that he never witnessed or was made aware of sexual harassment.The opinion reached in the report does not reflect the truth about the experiences of so many people who have testified under oath and spoken candidly to the Senator’s office.”
Levine said that the report ‘Is based solely on false, repackaged allegations that have been proven false by multiple unbiased investigations and reviews.”
The White House continues to support Garcetti’s nomination.
Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher blasted Grassley’s report as “a hit job from the beginning, and many of the claims have already been conclusively debunked by more serious independent reports.”
Meagher added, “It repackages allegations already addressed under oath and does not interview key participants. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Mayor Garcetti out of committee unanimously after reviewing these matters thoroughly. Mayor Garcetti has been clear that he takes any allegations of harassment very seriously and that this type of misconduct is unacceptable in his office in any form. He has also said under oath that he never witnessed this behavior. The President has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
Garcetti could be confirmed without any Republican votes, but all members of the Democratic caucus would have to stay unified, and Vice President Kamala Harris would have to break a tie. Before Grassley released his report, some Democrats reportedly had expressed concerns about Garcetti’s nomination.
Seligman, who alleges that she was subject to Jacobs’ sexual abuse, called on the White House to pull Garcetti’s nomination.
Seligman said in a statement, “Senators of both parties have committed themselves to protecting men and women from sexual abuse, and I am confident that they will draw the appropriate conclusions from Senator Grassley’s report.”
Seligman and Whistleblower Aid, which is representing her, challenge a prior report from the Los Angeles City Attorney as flawed and said that it mischaracterized or disregarded evidence.
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