Sanders: 'I Was a Little Bit Busy' to Know About Sexual Harassment Allegations During 2016 Campaign

January 3, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Wednesday said he "was a little bit busy" during the 2016 Democratic midterms when asked to respond to a report about sexual harassment allegations on his campaign.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Giulianna Di Lauro, a Latino outreach strategist for Sanders’ presidential campaign, filed a complaint against a surrogate to Sanders' campaign, saying that he told her she had "beautiful curly hair" that he wanted to touch. She said that she consented and he ran his hand through her hair in a "sexual way" and continued to push boundaries.

"I just wanted to be done with it so badly," she told the Times. She said she reported the incident to Bill Velazquez, a manager on the Latino outreach team, but she claimed that he made light of the incident, saying, "I bet you would have liked it if he were younger." She said he then laughed about the encounter.

Sanders appeared on CNN's "AC360," where he was asked about the report. Host Anderson Cooper asked whether he was aware of the allegations during the campaign and if he can ensure that something like this doesn't happen again in 2020, referring to the likelihood that Sanders will run for president again.

"I am not going to sit here and tell you that we did everything right in terms of human resources, in terms of addressing the needs that I'm hearing from now that women felt disrespected, that there was sexual harassment which was not dealt with as effectively as possible," Sanders said. "What I will tell you is that when I ran for re-election in 2018 in Vermont, we put forward the strongest set of principles in terms of mandatory training, in terms of women, if they felt harassed, having an independent firm that they can go to."

"I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately and of course if I run, we will do better our next time," Sanders added.

Cooper followed up to clarify whether Sanders was saying that he did not know about the allegations at the time of the complaints, prompting the senator to acknowledge this was the case.

"Yes, I was a little bit busy running around the country to make the case," Sanders said.