GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa released a staff report Tuesday concluding that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Biden administration’s nominee to be US ambassador to India, “likely knew, or should have known,” that his former political adviser Rick Jacobs “was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others.”
The controversy has essentially frozen Garcetti’s nomination as several senators have said they need more time to gather information about the allegations. Garcetti has repeatedly denied the accusations that he ignored the alleged harassment by Jacobs, his onetime deputy chief of staff and his longtime political adviser (who also worked on several of Garcetti’s political initiatives outside of the mayor’s office). Jacobs stepped down from his political work for Garcetti in the fall of 2020 – several months after a lawsuit was filed against him and the city by LAPD Officer and former Garcetti bodyguard Matthew Garza alleging misconduct.
Garza sued the city, alleging Jacobs made “crude sexual remarks” and inappropriately touched him, and he alleged that Garcetti witnessed Jacobs’ actions, according to the Los Angeles Times. That civil lawsuit is ongoing. Jacobs has denied harassing anyone.
As the Grassley report notes, Garza alleged that Jacobs’ behavior included “inappropriate touching including hugs, bicep squeezes, and shoulder massages” as well as “inappropriate comments about Officer Garza’s appearance and physique,” and sexual advances including inviting Garza to his hotel room and “making eye contact while licking his straw in a suggestive manner, and indicating for Officer Garza to sit on his lap.” Garza contended that Garcetti was aware of and witnessed some of Jacobs’ alleged behavior.
As the allegations were being investigated, Garcetti’s former communications director Naomi Seligman alleged in a deposition that Jacobs had repeatedly harassed her while she worked at City Hall from 2015 to 2017, the report notes. She stated that Jacobs’ conduct included “unwanted hugs, kisses (and) sexual comments.” One incident included “a prolonged kiss on the lips without her consent in front of several staff members,” the report states.
Garcetti’s office has long contended that he did not witness and was not aware of any sexual harassment and would have put a stop to it if he had been aware. Grassley, who had put a hold on the LA mayor’s nomination, said he is now releasing that hold but intends to vote no if the Senate considers the nomination. GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa also put a hold on Garcetti’s nomination in March.
In a statement provided to CNN on Tuesday, Garcetti said, “While I strongly disagree with the opinion reached in this report, I am pleased that Senator Grassley has lifted his hold, and hope that my nomination by the President can be considered by the Senate soon.”
Garcetti’s spokesperson Dae Levine said in a statement Tuesday that Garcetti “strongly reaffirms the simple truth that he never witnessed or was made aware of sexual harassment” and claimed the report was based solely on “false, repackaged allegations.”
But a number of Senate Democrats have privately expressed concerns about the nomination, questioning what the Los Angeles mayor knew about the sexual harassment allegations against Jacobs.
The report from Grassley’s office said that their review was based on interviews with 15 witnesses as well as examinations of 26 depositions from the Garza lawsuit and other documentary evidence, including emails and text messages. The document said investigators had requested an interview with Garcetti on three occasions “and he refused to meet,” adding that Jacobs and 11 individuals who currently work for or close to Garcetti also refused to speak with them.
The report’s investigators concluded that based on the evidence they had reviewed it was obvious that: “Mr. Jacobs’ behavior was rampant, widespread, and notorious. Several individuals who did not even work in or for City Hall told investigators that it was well known that Mr. Jacobs would sexually harass men and women alike. By all accounts, Mayor Garcetti was very involved in the day-to-day operation of the office, so it is difficult to imagine that he would not have known or heard others commenting about Mr. Jacobs’ behavior.”
The White House dismissed the Grassley report Tuesday.
“This partisan report was a hit job from the beginning, and many of the claims have already been conclusively debunked by more serious independent reports,” spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement. “It repackages allegations already addressed under oath and does not interview key participants.”
Meagher noted that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had voted Garcetti’s nomination out of committee unanimously “after reviewing these matters thoroughly.”
“Mayor Garcetti has been clear that he takes any allegations of harassment very seriously and that this type of misconduct is unacceptable in his office in any form,” Meagher added in the statement. “He has also said under oath that he never witnessed this behavior. The President has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.