The Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, had an internal sexual harassment problem, according to a report by BuzzFeed News Tuesday.
Benton Strong, the former associate director of communications for the “War Room,” is accused of sexual harassment by two previous female CAP employees, BuzzFeed News reported. One employee referred to as Mary described receiving “lewd and inappropriate text messages” from Strong, including wanting to perform oral sex on her. He discussed with male staffers whether or not black or white women are better at blow jobs and praised her body, she claimed.
Another woman claimed she reported to human resources that Strong asked women if a man had ever flashed them or masturbated in front of them. He allegedly made fun of a woman who claimed that it happened to her.
“It was like incessant. … It was like strings and strings of texts and her just being like ‘no no no,'” said Mary’s friend, another former staffer at the organization. Mary reported the instances to human resources and Strong was told not to come back to work. He was already leaving in three weeks to work for former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray who resigned in 2017 after five allegations of child sex abuse against him, according to The Washington Post.
However, Mary alleged that CAP’s management seemed frustrated that she spoke out against Strong in her exit memo. The former staffer claimed that management asked if she was “worth spending time or money on.” “All of this to say, I surely expected better out of an organization that housed a national campaign on sexual assault,” Mary wrote.
The other woman claimed that she faced backlash after reporting his actions, was moved to another project, and management said other employees “should be distancing themselves from me at work and should not sit next to me in meetings.” Five former staffers noted that CAP did have a mandatory meeting on sexual harassment in 2016. However, it primarily focused on inclusion training.
Strong, a self-described “Progressive communicator” on his Twitter page, acknowledged to BuzzFeed News that he made mistakes while in Washington, D.C., and apologized for his actions.
“CAP takes reports of sexual harassment or other inappropriate employee conduct incredibly seriously,” said a CAP spokesperson in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That anyone felt that we didn’t respond well to this incident is deeply regrettable and we will continue to work to ensure we have a workplace where every single staffer feels comfortable.”
“We continue to work with staff and others to ensure our policies are as strong as they can be,” the spokesperson added.
This post has been updated to include comment from a Center for American Progress spokesperson.