Joe Buttigieg axes aide who accused him of sexual harassment, bullying her

When Tom Kwan, the top aide to gubernatorial hopeful Joe Buttigieg, was fired on March 8, Mr. Buttigieg took a strong stance. “I don’t expect there to be a forced resignation to be fair to Ms. Freeman,” he said in a lengthy statement of support. “After Mr. Kwan left the race, I offered to help with the transition and reach out to his former employees to let them know what was happening.”

The move stunned many. With Mr. Buttigieg in a surprisingly competitive Democratic primary with former Mayor Andrew Cuomo, who was then in the lead, Mr. Kwan was seen as a crucial part of his campaign. Several of Mr. Buttigieg’s supporters told The New York Times that Mr. Kwan’s firing from the campaign and resignation from the University of South Carolina faculty was unexpected. Mr. Buttigieg hasn’t spoken publicly about Mr. Kwan’s departure or his alleged — and ongoing — sexual harassment accusations. At a forum in Maine last week, Mr. Buttigieg was asked if Mr. Kwan’s dismissal was a mistake and offered no explanation.

Some of the reasons for Mr. Kwan’s abrupt departure were unclear. Mr. Kwan has been accused of misconduct by more than one former University of South Carolina employee and Mr. Buttigieg hadn’t given him a clear path to the campaign. He said he didn’t know enough to explain what happened.

“To be quite honest, I really can’t talk about what went on in our campaign,” Mr. Buttigieg said, at the event sponsored by a left-leaning advocacy group. “I do know, as we were in the middle of trying to evaluate those decisions, I was looking at the best path forward for our campaign. That was going to change as the race continues.”

Since then, Mr. Buttigieg’s story has shifted. Last week he denounced Mr. Kwan for speaking out publicly, saying “it was wrong” for him to do so. On Monday, at a forum in Central Park, Mr. Buttigieg talked about how Mr. Kwan had tried to report the harassment. Mr. Buttigieg said that he declined to tell Mr. Kwan about his own mother’s experience with harassment and domestic violence — a sign of Mr. Buttigieg’s own public-accommodation approach. “I was very adamant that I would not let Tom say something — and particularly somebody with his background — that would undercut people’s courage to come forward,” he said.

Still, those who knew Mr. Kwan well did not know why he had taken his leave or quit. The Kwan family, which some say contributed $50,000 to Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign, insists it had no idea about his sudden exit. One longtime friend said that Mr. Kwan had been on track to be his deputy campaign manager.

“We didn’t see this coming at all,” Anne Kwan, Tom’s wife, told The New York Times. “A little upset and hurt by what’s going on. If Tom has done something wrong, he needs to be held accountable.”

Mr. Kwan, a graduate of South Carolina’s prestigious Bowdoin College, graduated at the top of his class and became an aide to then-Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., from 2012 to 2014. He also served as Mr. DeMint’s chief of staff when Mr. DeMint was president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Kwan was a senior researcher for the campaign, handling traditional media outreach, email list building and scheduling.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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