President Joe Biden isn’t giving up on his nomination of former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be the next U.S. ambassador to India, even as Republicans accuse the White House of ignoring the sexual harassment accusations involving Garcetti’s former top aide.
“This is a priority and continues to be a priority for us. Mayor Garcetti is well qualified to serve in this vital role,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week.
“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as you know, voted Mayor Garcetti out of committee unanimously after reviewing this matter thoroughly … and we’re hopeful that full Senate will confirm him promptly.”
The matter Jean-Pierre referred to is a pending lawsuit against Rick Jacobs, Garcetti’s former chief of staff. Jacobs is being accused of sexual harassment in the form of inappropriate comments, unwanted kissing and touching and sexual advances against a male LAPD officer assigned to Garcetti’s security detail, as well as a male reporter, the fiancé of an office communications director and other whistleblowers.
Biden nominated Garcetti in July 2021, but his final confirmation to the one of the nation’s prominent diplomatic roles has been languishing in the Senate ever since.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opened an investigation into the matter during, with his office conducting interviews with 15 witnesses and examining 26 depositions and other documentary evidence, including emails and text messages. Grassley’s investigative staff concluded that Garcetti “likely knew, or should have known, that his former senior advisor was sexually harassing and making racist remarks toward multiple individuals.”
“Nobody is that brazen to engage in this type of outrageous behavior against other people unless they know that they have a powerful enabler protecting them. Based on the facts and the evidence, that enabler is Mayor Eric Garcetti,” Grassley said Thursday.
“Despite attempts by Mayor Garcetti and the Biden Administration to frame complaints against him as a political hit job, some of the individuals who’ve come forward and shed light on the misconduct are from Mayor Garcetti’s own staff, “Grassley added.
Garcetti had testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year that he was only made aware of the allegations from the lawsuit and had no prior knowledge of the allegations. The White House previously called Grassley’s investigation a partisan “hit job.”
Grassley said Thursday that Biden’s resoluteness to confirm Garcetti is worrying after Biden last month signed into law the bipartisan Speak Out Act, which protects victims of sexual assault or harassment by prohibiting employers from hiding behind non-disclosure agreements, entered into before a dispute occurs.
“Continuing to push this nominee after signing that bill into law is the very definition of tone deafness,” Grassley said.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration is sending a message to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace that they’ll only be believed when politically convenient,” he added.
Garcetti is no stranger to controversy in the final years of nearly a decade as mayor. Earlier this year, he faced criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his mask mandate policy.
This year, Los Angeles hosted the Super Bowl at a time when Garcetti had declared the city in a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic and required that kids in schools needed to wear masks. But Garcetti went maskless at the football game.
“Attn Los Angeles lawmakers: you guys are a f—–g joke,” prominent California businesswoman Sara Foster said at the time. “While 100,000 people enjoyed the Super Bowl unmasked in our city, our children will have a very different experience in school tomorrow.”
Garcetti was criticized for stating that he holds his breath while unmasked and posing for photos, but he brushed off the controversy.
At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Garcetti encouraged people to report on each other if they violated his stay-at-home orders, saying “snitches” in his city will get “rewards.”
The Senate has until the end of December to confirm Garcetti before his nomination expires in the new Congress.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.