When Donald Trump became President, liberal Connecticut Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty proudly donned the symbolic pink hat, becoming a fierce member of “The Resistance” to protest the ascent of this evil misogynist. As the #MeToo movement — a reaction against male sexual assault — gained steamed, she tweeted “As a young intern and an attorney, I saw and experienced my fair share of harassment in the workplace. I know how traumatizing, isolating, and painful harassment can be. I understand what that does to one’s work environment.”
So when her Chief-of-staff Tony Baker punched one of her other staffers, Anna Kain, and then sent Kain a text that said “You better f***ing reply to me or I will f***ing kill you,“ Congresswoman Esty sprang into action. She immediately fired Baker without severance, reported the incident to the police and issued the following statement: “We women are tired of being treated like dirt. We have the right to participate in the work place without being objectified by lecherous predatory violent males. I have dedicated my profession career to addressing this abhorrent behavior and have taken appropriate action to see that women on my staff are treated with dignity and respect.”
Actually, I made the previous paragraph up. What Congresswoman Esty actually did was cover up Baker’s behavior for three months while he pulled in a taxpayer-financed annual salary of $136,000. She then arranged for him to receive a job with Sandy Hook Promise, a group that advocates against gun violence. She wrote him a letter of recommendation and gave him $5,000 in severance pay.
Perhaps she thought that the women who worked there were martial arts experts. When her actions were made public, she said “This was a mistake, I think [sic]. I’m somebody who believes in second chances. I was principally trying to get him away from my staff and the one he had hurt and make a safe space in Washington.”
As the pressure increased, Esty resorted to the usual psychobabble pointing out that she arranged for Baker to have counseling for anger management and alcohol abuse. She pointed the flaws in the system. “There’s no HR department, no standard employee handbook. We need a standard employee policy.”
Hmmm. Perhaps she has a point. As a Yale-educated lawyer, she sees subtlety and nuance that is not fathomable to the rest of us. We must establish proper protocols to handle men who punch women and threaten their lives.
What is truly outrageous is that this poor woman was afraid to report this incident because it could imperil Esty’s reelection. Kain stated, “I was 24 and doing a job that I believed in for an institution I was proud to be a part of. But I was being severely abused and had nowhere to turn. Nobody talked about things like this. I was suffering and thought it was weakness.” Kain actually believed that she was weak because she couldn’t tolerate being punched and having her life threatened.
Thus far, the esteemed Congresswoman has no plans to resign. Her Democratic colleagues – with a few cracks – are circling the wagons. But her political survival will depend on polling data and whether any of her competitors can raise enough money.
Her district, the Fifth, located in the northwestern portion of Connecticut, is the most competitive in the state. But as Connecticut has turned deep blue, her seat is considered by political pundits to be safe. She won the open seat in 2012 by 2 points but extended her margin of victory to 7 points in 2014 and 16 points in 2016. She has $1.4 million in cash and the only opponent who has filed his finances has only raised $13,000. Thus, there is plenty of time for another Democrat to emerge and protect the seat.
In the meantime, Congresswoman Esty can entertain us with her verbal gymnastics as she pretends to be a champion of woman’s rights, a fierce member of the Resistance and a staunch advocate of the #MeToo movement. I hope she is proud of herself.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.