The Hartford Courant, the largest newspaper in Connecticut, called on Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D., Conn.) to resign Friday over allegations she kept her chief of staff Tony Baker on the payroll for three months after finding out he left a voicemail threatening the life of one of her former female aides.
Baker is accused of physically abusing and sexually harassing Anna Kain, a former Esty aide that he once dated. In a recording obtained by the Washington Post, Baker threatened to kill Kain if she did not reply to him, the Post reports:
Rather than firing or suspending Baker, the congresswoman consulted her personal attorneys and advisers, she said. She also spoke to Kain on May 11, emails show; Kain said she provided detailed allegations that Baker had punched, berated and sexually harassed her in Esty’s Capitol Hill office throughout 2014, while she worked as Esty’s senior adviser.
Later, Esty enlisted a friend, former chief of staff Julie Sweet, to look into Baker’s past behavior, emails show.
Baker did not leave for three months. By his last day on Aug. 12, according to documents Esty provided to The Post, he and Esty had co-written a positive recommendation letter he could use in a job search and signed a legal document preventing her from disparaging him or discussing why he left.
The Courant's editorial board said Esty will probably spend the next several days attempting to defend her failure to take strong steps to protect Klain, who alleged she was punched, berated, and sexually harassed by Baker in Esty’s Capitol Hill office throughout 2014. The Courant, however, said Esty shouldn't waste her constituents' time and should just resign, calling her actions "appalling."
"You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you," Baker said in the recording left for Kain on May 5, according to the Post.
"The next day, I confronted him about this and said, ‘This is completely unacceptable,’" Esty told the Courant. "He did not deny that this happened. He was contrite. I told him he had to get anger management and basically stop drinking."
The editorial board said it was "completely unacceptable" what Esty did by trying to sweep the allegations under the rug. The congresswoman told the Post that "she was pressured by the Office of House Employment Counsel to sign" a nondisclosure agreement in order to get Baker out of her office, but the Courant said Esty has done "too little, too late" and that she is only acknowledging the incident because the allegations came to the public's attention. Esty's full statement can be read here.
The editorial board went on to sat Esty had every opportunity, or responsibility, to at least suspend Baker and hold him accountable for his behavior, calling her attitude "complicit."
Despite Esty's reaction to the situation with her chief of staff, the congresswoman joined some of her colleagues in Congress late last year to call on fellow Rep. John Conyers, (D., Mich.) to step down after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment.
"I do think that reports that have come to light in the last 48 hours are of an extremely serious nature," she said of the allegations against Conyers. "They involve people he had direct authority over, staff in his congressional office who are entirely reliant upon him for their livelihood. … I think it’s entirely unacceptable and I think he should resign."
Conyers ultimately announced he would retire from office less than a week after several members of Congress called on him to do so, and he endorsed his son to run for his seat.