Even before Lauren Greene decided to come forward with her allegations of sexual harassment against her then-boss Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), she was advised by colleagues on Capitol Hill that her career in D.C. would be over if she went public.
“As soon as I decided to do this, I kind of had to come to the conclusion that D.C. was no longer going to be in the cards,” Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, said in her first public television interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday night. “I was told, ‘Yeah, if you (do this) this would be career suicide.’”
In December 2014, Greene sued Farenthold over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, TPM reported at the time. She alleged that one of Farenthold’s male staffers told her the congressman had “wet dreams” and “sexual fantasies” about her and that Farenthold drank too much and told her inappropriate things about his sex life.
Greene dropped the suit when the two agreed to an $84,000 settlement, which was secretly paid using taxpayers dollars by the Office of Compliance. The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated the allegations against Farenthold as well, but found that Greene’s complaints were unsubstantiated.
“It was certainly a difficult decision to make,” Greene said Monday of choosing to sue the congressman. “I really just felt that I had to stand up for myself. I just thought that I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I didn’t.”
In an interview with Politico, the first outlet to speak with Greene publicly, she called Washington a “boys club.”
“I think that a lot of things are just understood and you’ve got to play by the rules and keep quiet about it,” she said. “That’s just kind of the mentality, from my experience. And so, I feel like the feedback that was given to me was: If I wouldn’t stay quiet and fall in line, then my career was over.”
She said the move “stagnated” her career for a while and she was, as predicted, unable to get a job in Washington after the lawsuit and settlement. She has worked a lot of “short-term” and temporary jobs, and said she was has been “unable to get back to where I was.” Now 30, she currently does temporary work for a homebuilder and babysits on the side.
“Which is unfortunate. And you know, I have reason to believe that there have been a couple of jobs I haven’t gotten, you know, because they kind of, they Googled my name,” she said. “And I think it somehow is perceived as a negative. And, so, you know, so you have that against you.”
She said she’s excited about the change in climate surrounding sexual harassment and misconduct, calling the recent movement a moment of “reckoning.”
“It’s more than a moment because a moment is fleeting and this doesn’t feel fleeting,” she said. “I think you already see change, you know, happening, and people being held accountable.”
Both Farenthold and Greene signed a confidentiality agreement with the settlement, so neither is allowed to talk about the incident. On Monday, Farenthold said he plans to pay back taxpayers for the $84,000 settlement the Office of Compliance paid out for him and said he’d like to have more “transparency” within the system that handles sexual harassment and misconduct complaints against members of Congress.
When asked whether she would be willing to dissolve the agreement so she and Farenthold can speak publicly about the incident, she said “absolutely.”
“I have nothing to hide,” she said. “I think transparency is important.”