A former Eric Garcetti aide, who has accused the former Los Angeles mayor of ignoring allegations of sexual harassment during his time in office, said Monday that he is “unfit” to become US ambassador to India amid his embattled nomination.
“He is unfit to become an ambassador or really to hold public office anywhere in this country or this world,” Naomi Seligman, a former communication’s director for Garcetti, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”
CNN reported last year that the initial nomination of Garcetti, a Democrat, by President Joe Biden had faced headwinds over concerns centered on accusations that he had ignored alleged sexual harassment and bullying. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination for a second time last week, with two Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of advancing Garcetti to the Senate floor.
Notably, a key Democratic holdout – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – said she would support the nomination after expressing confidence in the review of Garcetti conducted by the foreign relations panel.
Seligman, a self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat, said she briefed nearly a third of the Senate on the alleged misconduct in Garcetti’s office, and called it “devastating” to see lawmakers from her party push on with his nomination.
“Unfortunately, the White House has put undue pressure on Democrats to vote for Eric Garcetti because Eric Garcetti has been a very, very loyal person to President Biden, and that’s unfortunate,” she told Tapper. “These senators that purport to support #MeToo cannot just do it when it’s politically expedient. They have to do it when it matters, even if it’s your own political party.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked last week about the nomination, said Garcetti is “well qualified to serve in this vital role” and urged the Senate to move forward to confirm him.
“The president nominated him because he thought he had the experience to be the US ambassador to India,” Jean-Pierre said.
Throughout the lengthy process of Senate consideration of Garcetti’s nomination, the White House has stood steadfastly behind the former Los Angeles mayor. Garcetti has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the allegations and has met personally with senators in an effort to clear a path to confirmation.
The White House did not have an immediate comment on Seligman’s interview.
Seligman on Monday detailed her time serving in Garcetti’s office, saying she was present when Garcetti witnessed his onetime deputy chief of staff and longtime political adviser “touch people, hug people, kiss people.”
“We were in a work environment where sexual harassment and abuse was tolerated, enabled and ubiquitous. It was as common as checking your texts,” she told Tapper. “It was a very hard, disappointing and toxic environment where Mayor Garcetti enabled, tolerated and at times laughed about the abuse by his top aide and confidant, Rick Jacobs.”
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, who alleged Jacobs made “crude sexual remarks” and inappropriately touched him, The Los Angeles Times reported last year. Jacobs has previously denied harassing anyone and that civil lawsuit is ongoing.
As the allegations were being investigated, Seligman alleged in a deposition that Jacobs had repeatedly harassed her while she worked at City Hall from 2015 to 2017, according to a staff report from Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office last year. 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 stated.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Seligman was referring to the #MeToo movement in a reference to support from Democratic senators.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.