Report: Clinton Ignored Recommendation to Fire Top Adviser Accused of Sexual Harassment in 2008

Getty Images
January 26, 2018

Two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008 ignored the advice of her campaign manager at the time to fire one of her senior advisers, who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a younger female campaign staffer, according to a new report.

Patti Solis Doyle, the campaign manager during Clinton's 2008 presidential run, recommended that the candidate fire Burns Strider, but Clinton ignored the recommendation, instead ordering him to undergo counseling and docking several weeks of his pay, the New York Times reported Friday.

Mr. Strider, who was Mrs. Clinton's faith adviser, a co-founder of the American Values Network, and sent the candidate scripture readings every morning for months during the campaign, was hired five years later to lead an independent group that supported Mrs. Clinton's 2016 candidacy, Correct the Record, which was created by a close Clinton ally, David Brock.

He was fired after several months for workplace issues, including allegations that he harassed a young female aide, according to three people close to Correct the Record's management.

Mr. Strider did not respond to an email seeking comment.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton provided a statement from Utrecht, Kleinfeld, Fiori, Partners, the law firm that had represented the campaign in 2008 and has been involved on sexual harassment issues.

"To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken," the statement said. "This complaint was no exception."

Prior to the Times report, former Clinton campaign associates were unwilling to discuss the events for publication, but eight former campaign officials and associates of Clinton came forward for the story in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The movement has led to dozens of powerful men across the country—mainly in the media, politics, and the entertainment industry—being fired or suspended for alleged sexual misconduct.

The associates who came forward for the story recalled senior campaign officials and Doyle being troubled that Strider was allowed to continue advising the campaign.

A 30-year-old woman who shared an office with Strider told a campaign official that he had kissed her on the forehead, rubbed her shoulders inappropriately, and sent her multiple sexually suggestive emails, according to the Times.

The complaint was taken to Ms. Doyle, the campaign manager, who approached Mrs. Clinton and urged that Mr. Strider, who was married at the time, be fired, according to the officials familiar with what took place. Mrs. Clinton said she did not want to, and instead he remained on her staff.

The woman who made the accusation against Mr. Strider in 2008 has not spoken publicly about it. She, like most campaign staffers, signed a nondisclosure agreement that barred employees from publicly discussing internal dynamics on the campaign, according to two people with direct knowledge of the contract. Reached by a reporter, she declined to comment.

One of Clinton's biggest campaign donors and longtime friends, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, has been credited with sparking the #MeToo movement after the Times and the New Yorker reported in October about dozens of women who accused him of sexually harassing and assaulting them.

Clinton spoke out against Weinstein days after the explosive revelations, saying that she was "shocked" and "appalled" by his actions.

About two months later, actress Lena Dunham, one of Clinton's most vocal Hollywood supporters, told the Times that she warned multiple Clinton campaign aides during the 2016 campaign—including deputy communications director Kristina Schake—about associating with Weinstein because she knew he was a "rapist."

"I just want you to know that Harvey's a rapist and this is going to come out at some point," Dunham said she told Schake.

Dunham added that Schake seemed surprised by her warning and said she would tell Robby Mook, Clinton's 2016 campaign manager.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill denied Dunham's charges, saying, "Only she can answer why she would tell them instead of those who could stop him."

"As to claims about a warning, that's something staff wouldn't forget," he added.

Magazine editor and Daily Beast founder Tina Brown also told the Times that she warned a member of Clinton's inner circle in 2008 about Weinstein's alleged behavior.