Pro-Clinton Think Tank Hit With Sexual Harassment Allegations

The handling of internal complaints reportedly caused divisiveness within the Center for American Progress.

Neera Tanden of Center for American Progress sexual harassment allegations
J. Scott Applewhite / AP Images

The handling of internal complaints reportedly caused divisiveness within the Center for American Progress.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), an influential and very connected liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., allegedly encountered issues with sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a lengthy report published by BuzzFeed News.

After first claiming via email to staffers that the BuzzFeed feature was inaccurate to some degree, President and CEO Neera Tanden reportedly sent out a second email to staff explaining that she was “deeply sorry” that any victims of sexual harassment did not feel that CAP management adequately supported them once they came forward.

She is also convening a staff-wide meeting today to clear the air over sexual harassment issues within the organization, BuzzFeed noted in a follow-up story.

“Tanden added that CAP is working with the employee union to set up sexual harassment training at the company, after 19 current and former staffers told BuzzFeed News that they had not undergone such a training during their time at the organization.”

[See Update below]

Neera Tanden often makes the rounds of the cable news channels as a champion of progressive and Democrat causes. “Tanden is a high-profile Twitter user, staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton and the former secretary of state’s longtime advisor,” the Law&Crime website explained. She also worked in the Obama administration.

BuzzFeed recalls that Tanden went on TV to aggressively chide the GOP after the famous or infamous Access Hollywood audio surfaced containing then-candidate Donald Trump’s locker room talk.

“But only an hour after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, top officials at CAP received an exit memo from a young woman who’d just quit detailing the sexual harassment she experienced from…a manager on her team — harassment, she wrote, that management already knew about — and how she faced retaliation for reporting it.”

“CAP’s culture obscures its mission. All of this to say, I surely expected better out of an organization that housed a national campaign on sexual assault,” the memo concluded.

In a statement to Splinter News, CAP maintained that within hours of learning of the woman’s complaint involving allegedly sexually explicit text messages, the manager was escorted out of the building and never returned.

BuzzFeed indicated the manager was also suspended with pay for three days as he was leaving the organization for a job on the west coast. BuzzFeed got in contact with the former CAP manager who apologized for mistakes that he made while he worked in D.C.

The initial BuzzFeed report, which seems very comprehensive, implied that Neera Tanden may have been indifferent to the CAP union’s request for setting up sexual harassment response training and a reporting mechanism.

“Neera’s approach was maybe we can start hosting brown bags with HR so people will feel more comfortable coming out and doing things. So they had almost a do-nothing approach…They said they would think about things that [the union brought up], and that was essentially it,” a former union member claimed. A CAP spokesperson disputes this contention, however.

BuzzFeed describes the Center for American Progress as “the politics and policy hub for the Democratic establishment,” which was seen as a stepping stone, particularly for progressive women, seeking jobs in the Hillary Clinton White House (assuming there was one). It was founded by John Podesta, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton got into some hot water when she was accused of refusing to a fire an adviser who allegedly sexually harassed a woman who worked for Clinton during her 2008 presidential primary campaign against Barack Obama. Mrs. Clinton subsequently admitted in a 1,500-word Facebook post that she would have terminated the alleged offender if she had a do-over.

Update: The all-company meeting apparently didn’t go very well, BuzzFeed News claimed.

“But during the meeting Wednesday afternoon, Tanden named the anonymous victim at the center that story — a revelation that a CAP spokesperson said was unintentional — and what began as a tense meeting became what three staffers in the room described as a textbook example of the organization’s failures to appropriately handle sexual harassment cases. ‘There is literally one thing you cannot do in this meeting and that is out the victim and Neera did it multiple times…It also destroys whatever small level of confidence in the system remained,’ one CAP employee who was in the room said in a text to BuzzFeed News. ‘As a manager I don’t know how I can tell staff to trust the system when the head of the organization just outed the victim in front of the entire organization. It is impossible to trust her.’

“‘Neera lost the organization today,’ another CAP employee who was in the meeting said…In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a CAP spokesperson said that Tanden ‘unintentionally said the complainant’s first name in the meeting today, and immediately and profusely apologized for it.'”