The head of the Florida Democratic Party announced Friday that he is stepping down following multiple allegations of demeaning behavior toward women.
Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party Stephen Bittel faced accusations of misconduct from six former staffers and consultants, all of whom said, on condition of anonymity, that Bittel created an unprofessional work environment. The women described in a Politico report that Bittel leered at them, made inappropriate comments, and would invite women onto his private plane. In response, the Democratic Party chief was led to apologize and announce his resignation.
In Bittel's resignation announcement, he touted his record leading the Democratic Party, but apologized for making people feel "uncomfortable."
"When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside," Bittel said Friday. "I am proud of what we have built as a Party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party. I am working with our leadership to set the date for our party to elect my successor."
And Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel resigns after POLITICO Florida first reports 6 women complain of "creepy" behavior
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) November 17, 2017
Initially, he apologized but did not say whether he would step aside, instead declaring he was sorry and would try to do better.
"Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry," Bittel said.
Bittel kept breast-shaped stress balls at his desk, would make lurid comments about women, and would invite those he found attractive into his hotel room or on his private plane, according to the report.
"There was a lot of boob stuff in his office," one woman, who was a fundraiser for Bittel, said. "I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned."
Bittel is a wealthy developer who has gained power and connections in the Florida Democratic Party. Women who spoke to Politico in the initial report said they did so anonymously out of fear he would use those connections against them.
Bittel is known to be friends with prominent Democrats in the state, such as former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson. He also hosted fundraisers with former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.