Update, 1:44 P.M.: Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel has resigned in the wake of Politico's report.
The Florida Democratic Party posted a statement from Bittel on Twitter:
https://t.co/Ok7bJI4HPa— Florida Democrats (@Florida Democrats)1510935841.0
Original story follows below:
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel has apologized after six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants said he was responsible for an unprofessional workplace environment for women with frequent inappropriate comments toward them, Politico reported.
Politico reported that the women — who requested anonymity “out of fear for their jobs” — said Bittel never inappropriately touched or threatened them, but he made them feel “uneasy” with “his body language, suggestive remarks and even the breast-shaped stress balls he has been known to keep on his desk.” They said they intentionally avoided being alone with him due to his behavior.
According to the report, complaints ranged from Bittel allegedly making sexist remarks such as references about women cooking dinner, to discussing women “showing their breasts, their age, whether they wanted to ride on his plane, come to his hotel room or if they thought he was attractive.”
“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” a former fundraiser for the party said. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”
A former female party staffer described Bittel as “just so f***ing creepy.”
“He just leers at you, and stares. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling.”
Another former party staffer said concerns about Bittel’s behavior were so well-known that “it became a policy that women, especially junior staff, were never to be left alone with him in his office, plane or house.”
She said that Bittel’s remarks and the office environment he created were the reason she stopped working for the Florida Democratic Party.
“There is a reason I left,” she said. “He’s very demeaning. He’s inappropriate in his comments he makes to women.”
The report comes during a national wave of sexual harassment or assault allegations against men including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, as well as Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
What did Bittel say?
In a written statement to Politico, a spokesman for Bittel didn’t dispute the women’s accusations. He and acknowledged Bittel had “the breast-shaped stress balls,” but claimed they were a gift “from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday. He keeps them in a drawer with other gag gifts.”
Bittel apologized in a statement.
“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said. “I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better."
This story has been updated to include Bittel's statement about his resignation.