Former staff on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign are requesting a formal meeting with the politician to discuss “the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign” in order to “mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.”
Over two dozen Sanders alumni wrote a letter to the senator on Sunday urging him to create actionable goals to prevent “the untenable and dangerous dynamic” that took place during his 2016 campaign. The letter, obtained by Politico, does not specifically state any instances of sexual harassment or assault that took place during Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination for president.
“We — the people who worked on Bernie 2016 — know that much of the success of our campaign was due to the intense commitment, passion and sacrifice of women, people of color and LGBT staffers,” the letter states. “In recent weeks there has been an ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign.”
The former staffers requested a physical meeting with Sanders and his top advisers. They also asked that, following the meeting, Sanders advisers create “a follow-up plan for implementing concrete sexual harassment policies and procedures” as well as a “commitment to hiring diverse leadership.”
The signees told Politico that they did not intend for the letter to go public, and the identities of former staffers behind the letter have not been released.
One of the unidentified organizers told Politico in a follow-up comment that the letter is not specific to just Sanders’ 2016 campaign, but a broader commentary on “a pervasive culture of toxic masculinity in the campaign world.”
“This letter is just a start,” the organizer said. “We are addressing what happened on the Bernie campaign but as people that work in this space we see that all campaigns are extremely dangerous to women and marginalized people and we are attempting to fix that.”
Sanders’ campaign committee, Friends of Bernie Sanders, called the meeting “incredibly important” in a statement to Politico.
“We thank the signers of the letter for their willingness to engage in this incredibly important discussion,” the statement reads. “We always welcome hearing the experiences and views of our former staff. We also value their right to come to us in a private way so their confidences and privacy are respected. And we will honor this principle with respect to this private letter.”
Sanders’ camp has indicated he will throw his name in as a possible candidate for the 2020 presidential race, among a slew of other potential challengers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Vice President Joe Biden (D).
“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager John Weaver told The Associated Press earlier this month. “It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation.”