Feminist activist Linda Sarsour — who rose to national prominence in 2017 after helping spearhead the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. — on Monday addressed allegations of enabling sexual assault, which were levied against her by a former employee.
In a Monday interview with Buzzfeed, Sarsour — former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York — explained that former employee, Asmi Fathelbab, did broach the topic of feeling uncomfortable around a male office volunteer, but Sarsour explained there was a different version of events from those originally reported by Fathelbab.
What’s the history?
The Daily Caller published an article Sunday that detailed alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations.
According to the report, Sarsour reportedly threatened Fathelbab for bringing up allegations of sexual misconduct. Fathelbab alleged that groping and unwanted touching were among the allegations broached with Sarsour and stated that Sarsour refused to believe her graphic allegations.
She further alleged that Sarsour body-shamed her when she brought up the allegations, saying that Sarsour called her a liar because “something like this didn’t happen to women who looked like me.”
“[Sarsour] oversaw an environment unsafe and abusive to women,” Fathelbab told The Daily Caller. “Women who put [Sarsour] on a pedestal for women’s rights and empowerment deserve to know how she really treats us.”
Fathelbab reported that Sarsour also threatened her professionally if she went public with the sexual misconduct allegations.
“[Sarsour] told me I’d never work in NYC ever again for as long as she lived,” Fathelbab told the outlet. “She’s kept her word. She had me fired from other jobs when she found out where I worked. She has kept me from obtaining any sort of steady employment for almost a decade.”
What did Sarsour tell Buzzfeed?
Sarsour told Buzzfeed a different version of Fathelbab’s story and said she was “dumbfounded” by Fathelbab’s recollection of events.
“The exact words were, ‘He makes me feel uncomfortable,'” Sarsour told Buzzfeed. “There was nothing about touching or groping. There’s no evidence, no email she can pull out where she ever gave those claims to us.”
According to an affidavit provided by Sarsour, it was Fathelbab who allegedly created a hostile work environment, as she reportedly spread stories of the male office volunteer’s sexual harassment.
Sarsour said that she investigated Fathelbab’s claims and found “no substantial evidence or any testimonies from anyone about the alleged accusations.” She added that she told the man — who denied Fathelbab’s claims — to stay away from his accuser.
Sarsour was adamant that she never body-shamed Fathelbab, noting that it “never, ever” happened.
“This is character assassination,” she said. “This is where we have to draw the line. I have two daughters. This is not the type of behavior I engage in.”
Buzzfeed reported that Sarsour provided the outlet with various bits of documentation — including affidavits and signed witness statements — to support her version of events.
Did Fathelbab respond to Sarsour’s comments?
Fathelbab, who spoke with Buzzfeed for the report, said that she was unaware that Sarsour had filed affidavits related to the alleged incidents. Fathelbab maintained her position that she was explicit in her description of the allegations.
“I told her everything that was going on,” Fathelbab said. “And half of the time she could actually hear me screaming from the other side.”
Fathelbab told the outlet that she decided to come forward with her alleged experience because she thought it was hypocritical for Sarsour to tout women’s rights.
“Apparently I didn’t count as a woman to her, to have a right,” Fathelbab told Buzzfeed.