Mae Flexer, a Democratic state senator in Connecticut, on Monday told CNN host Brooke Baldwin that Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D., Conn.) should resign immediately over allegations of harassment by her former chief of staff.
Esty announced Monday she would not seek re-election after reports came out that she kept her chief of staff Tony Baker on the payroll for three months even though he threatened the life of one of Esty's former female aides in 2016. Flexer, who introduced the "Time’s Up Act" in the state senate as an overhaul of Connecticut’s sexual harassment laws, on Saturday was the first Democratic lawmaker to say that she should resign.
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"The congresswoman failed her staff on every level when she decided to protect an alleged abuser instead of them," Flexer said. "It's completely unacceptable. Her failure to do the right thing here hurt us all, especially as more and more women are courageously coming forward. It's time for Representative Esty to step aside."
The Washington Post reported last Friday that Baker was accused of physically abusing and sexually harassing Anna Kain, a former Esty aide that he once dated.
Baldwin acknowledged that Flexer was the first Democratic lawmaker to call on Esty's resignation and asked her what her top reason was.
"I think the number one reason is that, in totality, Congresswoman Esty handled the situation very poorly. She didn't protect the safety of the victim," Flexer said. "She didn't respect the horrible ordeal that the victim had endured and she didn't respect the rest of her staff by allowing her chief of staff to continue to be her chief of staff for three months after she learned of the allegations is completely unacceptable."
Flexer acknowledged later in the interview that Esty has been a "champion on a lot of issues important to women," but she said that Esty's failure to protect her staff is "too egregious" for her to get past and that it is time for her to step down.
Baldwin said that she read Esty's full statement about the allegation and never saw an explanation for why Esty kept her chief of staff on the payroll for three months after she was told by about the alleged threats. She also never saw an explanation for why the Congresswoman wrote her chief of staff a reference letter for another job.
"It's a reasonable expectation that Congresswoman Esty should have suspended her chief of staff immediately. Instead, we know that this situation was known to other members of her staff and so when her staff found out that the congresswoman finally knew, they must have had an expectation that Congressman Esty would act swiftly," Flexer said. "It was probably their worst nightmare that not only did the Congresswoman not act, but that he continued to lead that staff for three months after the fact."
"I just knew that I couldn't be silent and I needed to step forward regardless of party to say these actions are unforgivable and that this is not what we should expect from our elected leaders and we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. All workplaces should be free from sexual harassment and violence," Flexer added.
Flexer was not alone in her call for Esty to resign. The top Democrat in the Connecticut Senate, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, released a statement on Saturday saying that the Connecticut Democrat should "do the right thing and resign."
The Hartford Courant, the largest newspaper in Connecticut, also released an op-ed calling for Esty to resign, saying that it was "completely unacceptable" what Esty did by trying to sweep the allegations under the rug.
Baker went on to the gun control advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise, and he was fired last week when his harassment allegations came to light.