One of Washington's leading liberal institutions grappled with a divisive internal battle over sexual harassment during and in the aftermath of the 2016 election, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and interviews with 19 current and former staffers.
The Center for American Progress, the politics and policy hub for the Democratic establishment, has put out four different policy proposal papers on handling sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as data on how pervasive the issue is “across all industries.”
But only an hour after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, top officials at CAP received an exit memo from a young woman who'd just quit detailing the sexual harassment she experienced from Benton Strong, a manager on her team — harassment, she wrote, that management already knew about — and how she faced retaliation for reporting it.
In the email, the junior staffer, who asked that BuzzFeed News refer her to as Mary, which is part of the woman’s formal name, wrote that “on several occasions, myself and others on the team felt as if reporting had been a mistake and that the retaliation, worsening of already tenuous team dynamics, and treatment by supervisors outweighed the seemingly positive act of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and interviews with 19 current and former staffers describe a chaotic internal culture in which, according to a July 2016 memo written by CAP’s employee union, there were “several incidents of sexual harassment against several members of our unit.” The documents and interviews pull back the curtain on a culture in which young staffers felt there was a gap between the organization’s mission and its everyday realities.
Sexual harassment within the think tank world is extremely common, and a number of incidents have come to light in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Here is our recent piece on a sex scandal at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Update: BuzzFeed in now reporting that CAP President Neera Tanden named the anonymous harassment victim in an all-staff meeting. Here is more from ThinkProgress.