White House criticized for dismissing harassment claims against Jill Biden's 'work husband'

 March 13, 2024

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients has come under attack for dismissing harassment allegations against a man said to be close with First Lady Jill Biden. 

That's according to the New York Post, which explained that the controversy concerns Anthony Bernal, a high ranking aid to Mrs. Biden who has been called the first lady's "work husband."

Situation called "classic Me Too"

The Post cited three unnamed sources who said that Bernal "repeatedly speculated to them about the penis sizes of coworkers and inappropriately postulated the sexuality of peers."

One source complained that Bernal regularly makes inappropriate remarks "to make people uncomfortable and to have power over them."

"It is Me Too — classic Me Too," the source continued, referring to the social movement that arose following revelations of sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"It was a lot of inappropriate remarks — talking about other people’s attractiveness and speculating about their sex lives at very weird moments," another source was quoted as saying.

White House chief of staff condemns "unfounded attacks"

For his part, Zients responded on Monday by insisting that both Mrs. Biden and the president "have full confidence in Anthony’s character."

The White House chief of staff went on to assert that "[i]t is disappointing that he is the target of unfounded attacks from unnamed sources."

The Post noted that those words were not well received by a former Biden White House official who previously worked alongside Bernal.

Former official says victims have "zero recourse"

"It's a troubling quote because it’s widely known that Anthony's behavior is unacceptable and to have senior staff dismiss it like that tells everyone in the building that that kind of behavior is OK and it won’t even be looked into," the unnamed figure stated.

"The way that [Bernal] treats other people is really not in line with the way the Bidens say that they want people to be treated," the former official added.

One of the earlier sources remarked, "If you can have the White House chief of staff come to your defense on issues that are widely known and deeply problematic, that certainly shows your influence."

"If they didn’t know that they had zero recourse before the story, Jeff made it pretty clear that if you're harassed by senior staff at the White House, his door is closed, and he doesn’t want to hear you," the source concluded.

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