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Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” is the “silence breakers” who launched the now viral “me too” movement of speaking out against sexual harassment and assault.

The movement has brought down powerful men across the largest industries, like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, media giants like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer and politicians like Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). At least 50 prominent men have been accused of sexual misconduct in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press. 

Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal announced the magazine’s choice on NBC’s “Today” show, which recently fired Lauer, one of its longtime co-hosts for multiple allegations of harassment and assault. Felsenthal said that the “galvanizing actions” of women and many men speaking out has “unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.”

“The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year,” he said in a statement shared with TPM.

The cover features singer Taylor Swift, who sued a radio DJ who allegedly groped her during a photo for $1 and won; Ashley Judd, one of the first prominent women who came forward with accusations against Weinstein; Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who spoke out about harassment in the workplace; Adama Iwu, a Visa lobbyist who started a campaign in the California state legislature to unveil harassment; Isabel Pascual, who was stalked and harassed after speaking out about the harassment she was experiencing and whose name was changed to protect her identity; and a woman whose face is hidden, who has anonymously come forward with allegations against her employer.

Time’s 2017 Person of the Year cover, provided by Time, Inc.

President Donald Trump was named “runner up,” a telling blow to the President after he claimed on Twitter a few weeks ago that he had “passed” on being named “Person of the Year” again. Time denied Trump’s claims and said it couldn’t comment on the topic until it had made its announcement. Trump was named Time’s “Person of the Year” last year, after he won the 2016 election.

The President himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 13 women, but he has denied all the allegations and has repeatedly called the women “liars.”       

The “me too” movement has permeated through multiple industries across the country in recent weeks, including politics. Not only have two sitting members of Congress been accused of misconduct — prompting one, Conyers, to resign Tuesday — the Senate and the House are now grappling with how to handle news that taxpayers have funded at least $17 million worth of settlements to staffers who have filed complaints against members of Congress for two decades. Congress is also tackling new legislation that changes the way harassment complaints are handled on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who championed legislation that would overhaul harassment reporting in Congress, told CNN she was thrilled with the shift to a more “enlightened” culture.

“What a difference a year can make,” she said when she heard the news during an interview on CNN Wednesday morning, referencing the way accusations against Trump were handled last year leading up to the election compared to now.   

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Despite calls from Democratic leaders to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) told ABC Tuesday that he is “not resigning” and claimed Democratic leaders knew about the allegations against him during the campaign, but never said anything.

“I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader (Nancy) Pelosi (D-CA) and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)— they knew about these allegations last year,” he told ABC outside his office Tuesday. “They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They were out there and campaigned for me.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as Pelosi’s and Lujan’s offices denied having any knowledge of the allegations before Buzzfeed published them Friday. A woman who worked for Kihuen’s campaign last year has accused the congressman of asking her for dates and sex “despite her repeated rejections.” She said he also touched her thighs twice without her consent.

According to Buzzfeed, the woman, who they identified as Samantha, told the DCCC that she had quit her job working for Kihuen’s campaign because he made her uncomfortable. A DCCC aide brought that information to Kihuen’s campaign manager, Dave Chase, who told Buzzfeed he confronted the then-candidate about the complaint and he denied it. Chase told Buzzfeed that he thinks the congressman lied. 

The DCCC spent at least $3 million on Kihuen’s campaign, and Pelosi’s campaign made a $2,000 contribution to his election committee, according to FEC filings. A source associated with the DCCC told ABC that the committee wouldn’t have financially supported Kihuen if they’d known about the allegations.

News that Kihuen doesn’t plan to resign comes amid reports that the congressman’s chief of staff was trying to find new jobs for all of Kihuen’s D.C. office staffers.

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The chief of staff for Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) is reportedly looking for jobs for the congressman’s D.C. staffers, just three days after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on Kihuen to resign amid an allegation of sexual misconduct.

Chief of Staff Peter Koltak sent out the resumes of most of the staffers in Kihuen’s D.C. office to other Democratic offices on Tuesday, according to an email obtained by Politico. The email said Koltak was “hoping to place them all here pretty quickly in other offices” and asked for help in making connections for any openings.

“Im happy to talk with anyone at any time about each person. I would highly recommend any of them,” he wrote, according to Politico.

BuzzFeed first reported Friday that a former Kihuen campaign staffer accused the congressman of asking her for dates and sex “despite her repeated rejections.” The woman, who BuzzFeed only identified as Samantha, said the congressman also touched her thighs twice without her consent.

Pelosi put out a statement early Saturday after she spoke with Kihuen, calling on him to resign, saying the woman’s account of the “upsetting” allegations was “convincing” and commending the woman for “the courage it took to come forward.”

Kihuen’s office did not return TPM’s requests for comment over the weekend or on Tuesday. Kihuen told BuzzFeed that he didn’t “recall any of the circumstances” that Samantha described, but apologized for “anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”

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A spokesperson for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign on Tuesday refused to say whether she believed any of the eight woman who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct. But she said she didn’t believe at least one of the accusers “at all.”

During a combative interview on CNN, the spokesperson, Janet Porter, touched on a variety of seemingly unrelated topics, suggested that Moore’s accusers are revenge seekers and equated abusing and molesting children to being pro-choice.

Porter started out the interview by congratulating CNN host Poppy Harlow, who is pregnant, on her “unborn child.” Porter said the reason she decided to volunteer for Moore’s campaign is because “he will stand for the rights of babies like yours in the womb, whereas his opponent will support killing them up until the moment of birth.”

Harlow changed the subject, asking Porter about Moore’s phone call with President Trump on Monday, when the President reportedly told Moore that he had his full support ahead of the election next week.

“Basically he knows Judge Roy Moore is a fighter and denied all the false and baseless allegations and he fully supports him,” Porter said, referencing reports that Trump believes Moore’s denials of all the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

At least eight women have come forward in recent weeks, alleging Moore pursued relationship or made unwanted sexual advances toward them when they were teens and he was in his 30s. Moore has flatly denied all the claims and has said he doesn’t know any of the women who accused him of sexual assault.

Porter said she doesn’t believe Leigh Corfman — the first to speak out, who said Moore inappropriately touched her when she was 14 — “at all” and baselessly claimed that Corfman’s mother doesn’t believe her either.

She then shot off a series of defenses for the former judge, saying “everybody knows” that the yearbook — which accuser Beverly Young Nelson claims Moore signed when she was in high school — is “a forgery.” Porter claimed Moore shouldn’t have to sit before the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the allegations because Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who has been accused of groping at least five women without their consent, sits on that panel. Porter said she believes Franken’s accusers because the senator has admitted wrongdoing and apologized.

Porter suggested Moore’s accusers are people who have an “axe to grind” with Moore because he presided over legal cases they were involved in and said that most have a political vendetta against them.

She then equated child molestation and abuse to being pro-choice, again involving Harlow’s unborn child in the debate.

“If you care about child abuse you should be talking about the fact that judge Roy Moore stands for protection, not only of our Second Amendment rights so we can protect ourselves against predators, and the rights of babies like your eight month baby that you’re carrying now, Doug Jones says you can take the life of that baby and we should pay for it.”

“Let’s keep my child out of this,” Harlow said, sternly cutting her off. “Let’s keep my child out of this.”

Porter also said she “can see why” Moore hasn’t come on CNN for an interview, adding, “there’s a reason” people say CNN is “fake news.”

“I think he has the right to stand with the people of Alabama and not be subjected to more and more harassment,” she said. “I side, instead of with the lynch mob media, instead of the Democrat liberals, instead of the convicted felons … I stand with a man who stood for the Ten Commandments, who stood for God, who stood for his principles, who has an impeccable character.”

Watch a segment of the interview below:

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Calling the allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore incidents that occurred “decades ago,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told reporters Monday that the President had no choice but to endorse Moore.

“I don’t think he had any choice but to do that,” Hatch told reporters who traveled with President Donald Trump to Utah on Monday, according to Bloomberg. “He needs every Republican he can get so he can put his agenda through. So, that’s the only Republican you can possibly get down there.”

Upon initial news that multiple women had come forward alleging that Moore had pursued relationships or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s, Hatch and several Republican leaders in Congress said if the allegations were true, Moore should step aside. Hatch appeared to walk that back on Monday.

“Many of the things he allegedly did are decades ago, so it’s hard to — that’s a decision that has to be made by the people in that state,” he said. “If they make that decision, who are we to question them?”

Hatch’s comments fall in line with the cautious nod his colleagues are giving Moore in the last week before the Dec. 12 election.

While initially adamant that Moore should step aside, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made similar comments over the weekend, saying the people of Alabama should decide Moore’s fate. The White House was also careful to distance itself from Moore at first, but Trump all-out endorsed the embattled candidate Monday in a tweet and phone call.

“Go get ‘em, Roy!” Trump told Moore in the phone call, according to his campaign.

On Monday evening, the Republican National Committee reversed course and backed Moore after initially backing away when the allegations surfaced.

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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.”

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While maintaining that he didn’t do anything wrong, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said Monday he plans to pay back the $84,000 settlement the Congressional Office of Compliance paid out to settle a sexual harassment complaint between him and a former staffer.

Speaking with local Texas television station KRIS 6, Farenthold said he plans to hand a check to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) this week to repay taxpayers for what the settlement cost them, so that he can have the credibility to talk about reforming the way in which complaints against members of Congress are handled.

“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this, and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying, ‘Blake you benefited from the system, you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it,’” he said.

On Friday, Politico and NBC reported that Farenthold was the only member of Congress whom the Office of Compliance had paid a sexual harassment settlement for in the past five years. In 2014, Farenthold’s former communication director Lauren Greene sued him 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.

The Office of Compliance has secretly paid out $17 million in taxpayer dollars for settlements over the past 20 years over misconduct complaints against members of Congress. It’s not known how many cases were sexual harassment claims, besides the Farenthold case and another case from 2010 where the office gave $100,000 to staffers of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) for groping allegations.

Neither Farenthold nor Greene’s attorney said they could confirm or deny whether they were the parties involved in the $84,000 settlement on Friday, but both parties shared a joint statement they had written at the time that said they had reached a deal. Farenthold said he hired a new attorney over the weekend to find out what he could say publicly regarding the settlement.

“I wish I could’ve said something Friday, I went to the House lawyer and asked ‘What can I say?’ And they said, ‘Here’s the statement that you can make,’ and Saturday when I got home I opened up the settlement agreement and read it myself and go ‘I think I can say more than I’m saying,’” he said. “And I hired another lawyer out of my own pocket for reviewing and he said ‘Blake, you can talk about the process all you want.’ And the process is broken.”

The House Ethics Committee sent a letter to the Office of Compliance on Friday asking for the records of all alleged misconduct claims made against sitting members or employees of the House. 

Watch the interview below:

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One of the 13 women who came forward accusing President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign said she and other accusers feel forgotten in the recent wave of women coming forward accusing prominent men of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, especially by politicians.

“I mean, I think it’s been great,” the accuser, Rachel Crooks, said Monday on CNN’s “New Day” when asked about the recent “me too” movement of women going public with their stories of harassment.

I’m so thankful that other women are having enough courage to come forward. But, yes, I do feel forgotten,” she continued. “I mean, you can’t help but wonder why people aren’t talking about Trump and the people that came forward for him and why is he immune to this? … I think we’re forgotten by people who want to put party above all else and that’s sad because this should be bigger than politics.”

Before the election, Crooks came forward with her story claiming that Trump kissed her without her consent when she introduced herself to him in 2005. At the time, Crooks said she was working for a company that was located inside Trump Tower. She said she saw Trump regularly using the elevator outside her office window, so one day she decided to introduce herself to him. Throughout the conversation he wouldn’t let go of her hand and repeatedly kissed her on the cheeks. He asked her if she was a model and then forcibly kissed her on the lips without her consent.

She said she decided to come forward because she “thought people would take it seriously,” but said that she and other accusers feel completely forgotten.

I thought people would — I don’t know, take that into consideration at the polls,” she said. “I think it’s just evidence of sort of the political atmosphere these days. We’re forgotten by politicians who think it’s more convenient to keep Trump in office, you know, have him just sweeping his indiscretions under the rug.”

Crooks’ comments come a day after Billy Bush — the former NBC “Access Hollywood” host who was fired when the infamous video surfaced of him laughing with Trump as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women — wrote an editorial in The New York Times expressing sympathy for the women who have accused the President of sexual misconduct. He put to rest all doubts of the authenticity of the tape and outlined some of the allegations against Trump, saying “I believe” the accusers. 

While Crooks said she’d like to see Congress investigate Trump’s sexual misconduct, she said if that doesn’t happen, she hopes people will reconsider his behavior in the next election.

And if nothing else, she’d love an apology.

That would be great. That would be a wonderful first step for him to acknowledge his behavior and apologize. I would definitely welcome that,” she said.

Watch her explain her allegations against the President below:

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White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said the President’s embrace of embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is less about dismissing allegations that Moore molested multiple women when they were teenagers and more about Democrats not voting for tax cuts.

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning, Short said Trump has “expressed concern” about the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore — one of the accusers claimed she was just 14-years-old at the time of the alleged misconduct — but said Trump questions why the accusations didn’t come out sooner.

“When allegations rise 38 years later, when Roy Moore has been a very public figure for the past 38 years, he’s run multiple times statewide in Alabama, the people of Alabama need to choose and make decisions about Roy Moore’s character, that there are certain questions that come about the timing of these allegations,” he said. “So when you put all of that together, he’s encouraging people of Alabama to make the right decision.”

He also said Trump thinks it’s a “factor to consider” that no Democrats have supported the Republicans’ tax overhaul bill.

“He is also making the point that it is one of our best opportunities for tax relief, tax relief that many Democrats had said they thought the idea of reforming our corporate code made sense, we couldn’t muster any support from Democrats on a plan that provides massive tax relief for middle income families,” he said.

When CNN host Chris Cuomo argued that Moore hadn’t yet indicated that he would even support the Republicans’ tax relief bill, Short agreed.

“Moore should weigh in. I agree with you,” he said.

Just two weeks ago, Short suggested that he and Trump think the allegations against Moore are credible, saying on ABC News that if Trump “did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore,”

His comments on the Alabama Senate race Monday come after Trump tweeted saying the Republicans need Moore’s vote in order to pass “massive Tax Cuts.”

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Former “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush over the weekend put to rest any doubts about the authenticity of the infamous recording in which Donald Trump is heard bragging about groping women.

“He said it. ‘Grab ‘em by the pussy,’ Bush wrote in an editorial published in The New York Times on Sunday.

Of course he said it,” he continued. “And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better.”

Bush’s decision to set the record straight comes as the President has reportedly been questioning the authenticity of the “Access Hollywood” tape in recent weeks, floating the idea to aides and at least one U.S. senator that the voice on the tape is not his. That’s hit “a raw nerve” for Bush, who expressed sympathy for the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

“I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention,” he wrote. “This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.”

Bush, who was fired from NBC after the tape surfaced, outlined the allegations Trump accusers Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Jill Harth and Kristin Anderson have made against the President, saying their stories stack up against what he heard Trump say that day on the bus.

“I believe her,” he said. “To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump. You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change.”

Read the full editorial here.

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