The ad hoc committee convened by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to explore sexual harassment and misogyny in New Jersey politics denounced a series of statements supporting Warren County Democratic Chairman Tom Palmieri after he was accused of sexually harassing his Sussex County counterpart.
“We were disheartened to read of the rush to judgement about Sussex County Democratic Chair Katie Rotondi from leaders in the New Jersey Democratic Party,” the working group said in a joint statement..
“While we do not presume to adjudicate the merits of her allegations, this is not the first time that leaders – including, unfortunately, female leaders – have rushed to judgement before learning all the facts. The concerted effort to discredit women as soon as they muster the courage to come forward serves as a deterrent that has long prevented many survivors from speaking up.”
Rotondi accused Palmieri of sexual harassment and charged the Warren chairman joked about drugging her drink during a fundraiser held at Gov. Phil Murphy’s home.
Her allegations were first reported by Politico New Jersey.
Palmieri flatly denied the allegations and marshaled a host of New Jersey’s Democratic women to his defense.
Weinberg’s committee warned that the dynamic in play in Rotondi’s allegations could have a chilling effect on complaints about sexual impropriety.
“As leaders, we must strive to create a safe environment for survivors of sexual assault, harassment and misogyny to come forward,” they said. “When powerful people dismiss their allegations before hearing any facts or potentially corroborating evidence, it sends a message that the experiences and feelings of the women speaking up are invalid.”
Leaders, the committee said, have a greater responsibility than anyone else.
“To those leaders who feel compelled to discredit women because they speak out against your political allies: Wait for all the facts to emerge before rushing to judgement, lest you perpetuate the silence and shame so many survivors feel,” the ad hoc committee said. “If we are to truly address misogyny, survivors need leaders to listen to them with an open mind, not to perpetuate the culture we should all strive to change.”