Two days after BuzzFeed News unveiled allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at one of the nation’s top liberal think tanks, the Center for American Progress’s president, Neera Tanden, met with staff to restore confidence in the organization’s ability to handle the issue and ensure that employees feel safe.
But during the meeting Wednesday afternoon, Tanden named the anonymous victim at the center that story — a revelation that a CAP spokesperson said was unintentional — and what began as a tense meeting became what three staffers in the room described as a textbook example of the organization’s failures to appropriately handle sexual harassment cases.
“There is literally one thing you cannot do in this meeting and that is out the victim and Neera did it multiple times…It also destroys whatever small level of confidence in the system remained,” one CAP employee who was in the room said in a text to BuzzFeed News. “As a manager I don’t know how I can tell staff to trust the system when the head of the organization just outed the victim in front of the entire organization. It is impossible to trust her.”
“Neera lost the organization today,” another CAP employee who was in the meeting said. “There was so much angst in that room. She outed the victim, and the subtext of every question was a lack of confidence in her leadership and ability to create trust within the organization.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a CAP spokesperson said that Tanden “unintentionally said the complainant’s first name in the meeting today, and immediately and profusely apologized for it.”
“She feels awful that it happened and that the victim’s negative experience was compounded; she also expressed that the victim’s actions in coming forward were courageous. Neera’s horror was very evident in the meeting,” the spokesperson said.
Wednesday’s meeting comes after BuzzFeed News released a story on Monday night outlining allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation against those who reported it at CAP in 2016, as well as concerns raised by employees and the employee union at the time that the situation was mishandled by top CAP officials. CAP’s spokesperson said the meeting was “just the beginning of conversations we are going to have internally to address questions and answer concerns.”
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