A U.S. House Democrat -- who has been prominent in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment -- apologized Thursday, saying she failed to protect female members of her staff who claimed to have been harassed by the lawmaker’s former chief of staff.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., now serving her third term in Congress, also reimbursed the federal government out of her own pocket for $5,000 in severance pay issued to Tony Baker, the former staffer.
Baker was fired in August 2016, about three months after Esty became aware of allegations against him, the Washington Post reported.
“What I did was not good enough and it didn’t protect [my staff] enough,” Esty told the newspaper. “ … I’m hopeful now with this conversation and this coming out that I’ll be able to be much more direct and help other people in Congress understand the risks they are placing their staff at when they don’t think they are.”
"What I did was not good enough and it didn’t protect [my staff] enough."
One woman who formerly served on Esty’s staff claimed she received death threats and that Baker punched her in the back.
“You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you,” Baker said to the woman, Anna Kain, who had once dated Baker, the Washington Post reported. Kain provided a copy of a May 2016 voicemail recording to the newspaper.
Baker was Esty's chief of staff from 2014 to 2016. His spokesman has denied many of the allegations against Baker.
After leaving Esty’s staff, Baker took a job in Ohio working for Sandy Hook Promise, a gun-control group created after the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., which is part of Esty’s congressional district.
Baker, who had obtained the Ohio job based in part on Esty’s personal recommendation, left the position Monday, the Connecticut Post reported.
Esty has been known in Congress for advocating women's rights issues. She was among the Democrats who pressured longtime U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to resign last year after he faced accusations of sexual misconduct, the Washington Post reported.
Timothy Daly, Esty’s current chief of staff, said the lawmaker was advised by the Office of House Employment Counsel to enter into a nondisclosure agreement with Baker as part of a settlement deal that included Baker being paid his unpaid leave and about $5,000 in severance.
Daly said the nondisclosure agreement was “a recommendation that was provided to the congresswoman as part of a means to get Tony out of the office as soon as possible.”
He said the congresswoman was speaking about the situation now because she believes the agreement is "moot" given the media coverage, as well as her decision that "it's time and appropriate to be transparent."
Andrew Ricci, a friend and spokesman for Baker, told the Connecticut Post that Baker lives in Columbus, Ohio. A phone number listed for a Tony Baker was disconnected, according to the Associated Press.
Ricci also told Hearst that Baker denied punching Kain in the back at Esty's Washington, D.C., office.
Ricci said Baker has "spent a lot of time over the past two years becoming a stronger person." He added, "I know he's been living a sober life, and I can tell you anger management was really helpful."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.