Hillary Clinton Chose to Shield a Top Faith Adviser Accused of Sexual Harassment in 2008

Hillary Clinton campaign’s Senior Adviser for Faith Based Operations, Burns Strider, in 2008. Credit Jeremy Lange for The New York Times

A senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request, according to four people familiar with what took place.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider. But Mrs. Clinton did not. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling, and the young woman was moved to a new job.

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 multiple requests for comment.

Those familiar with the accounts said that, over the years, a number of advisers urged Mrs. Clinton to sever ties with Mr. Strider, and people familiar with what took place did not want to see Mrs. Clinton blamed for the misconduct of men she was close to.

The complaint from the young woman was initially brought to Jess O’Connell, who was the national director of operations for the Clinton campaign.

Ms. O’Connell, who is currently chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, handled the investigation and advised Ms. Solis Doyle that Mr. Strider should be fired, according to three people familiar with the events.

Ms. O’Connell told colleagues she was concerned that the young woman making the allegations should not be demoted when she was moved from Mr. Strider’s supervision. The woman requested to have no more interactions with Mr. Strider, and she was moved to a different job within the campaign, reporting directly to Mike Henry, the deputy campaign manager.

The investigation into Mr. Strider’s conduct was described as brief, but it included a review of a number of emails he sent the young woman, who had shared an office with him.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton provided a statement from Utrecht, Kleinfeld, Fiori, Partners, the law firm that had represented the campaign in 2008 and which her advisers said 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.”

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SOURCE: The New York Times – MAGGIE HABERMAN and AMY CHOZICK