Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who has been nominated to become ambassador to India — “more likely than not” was aware of or should have been aware of sexual harassment and racist comments by a former top adviser, according to a U.S. Senate investigative report released May 10.
The investigation concluded it was “more probable than not” that the adviser, Rick Jacobs, “sexually harassed multiple individuals and made racist comments towards others.”
It also found it “extremely unlikely” that the mayor was unaware of the behavior, saying that “by all accounts, Mayor Garcetti is very involved in the day-to-day operation of his office.”
“Mr. Jacobs’ behavior was widely known and talked about. It was pervasive, widespread and notorious — to the point that Mr. Jacobs sexually harassed someone in front of the mayor for a picture that would be memorialized for all of time. Such overt conduct suggests at best that Mr. Jacobs had no fear of any repercussions,” the report states, referencing a photograph of the mayor with Jacobs at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami, in which Jacobs is holding his hand over another person’s genital area and Garcetti is giving two thumbs up. Garcetti has claimed that he did not see Jacobs’ hand placement when the photo was taken.
The investigation into Garcetti was requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who delayed the Senate confirmation vote on the mayor’s ambassador nomination. Investigators spoke with 15 witnesses and read emails and text messages that witnesses provided. They also reviewed 26 depositions from a civil suit involving Jacobs and an investigative report and supplemental report that the city of Los Angeles commissioned.
According to the report, investigators requested an interview with Garcetti three times but “he refused to meet.”
At an unrelated news conference May 10, Garcetti said he offered to sit down with Grassley, but Grassley “decided not to take him up on (it.)”
After the report’s release, Garcetti said in a statement, “While I strongly disagree with the opinion reached in this report, I am pleased that Senator Grassley has lifted his hold, and hope that my nomination by the president can be considered by the Senate soon.”
His Chief Communications Officer Dae Levine said: “No new facts were uncovered in this report, and Mayor Garcetti strongly reaffirms the simple truth that he never witnessed or was made aware of sexual harassment. The opinion reached in the report does not reflect the truth about the experiences of so many people who have testified under oath and spoken candidly to the senator’s office. It is based solely on false, repackaged allegations that have been proven false by multiple unbiased investigations and reviews.”
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the White House dismissed the report and said President Joe Biden, who nominated Garcetti last July, stands by Garcetti.
“This partisan report was a hit job from the beginning, and many of the claims have already been conclusively debunked by more serious independent reports,” the White House statement said. “The president has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
Following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s vote to advance Garcetti’s nomination, Grassley wrote to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in March saying he would object to the nomination, citing “numerous credible allegations from multiple whistleblowers alleging that Mr. Garcetti, while mayor of Los Angeles, had knowledge of sexual harassment and assaults allegedly committed against multiple city employees and their associates by his close adviser, and that he ignored the misconduct.”
In February, the nonprofit law firm Whistleblower Aid filed a complaint on behalf of Garcetti’s former communications director, Naomi Seligman, accusing the mayor of perjury while he was questioned during his nomination hearing in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the sexual harassment allegations against Jacobs.
Jacobs was accused in a 2020 lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza, who claims Garcetti witnessed the misconduct but turned a blind eye to it.
Seligman also says she was forcibly kissed by Jacobs and that Garcetti knew about Jacobs’ alleged pattern of harassment.
Garcetti has denied the allegations in the past — and did so again during his hearing, telling the Senate panel he has a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment.
The report, however, points to “the mayor’s admission of his awareness of Mr. Jacobs’ habits to kiss and hug others,” and repeatedly references the “apparent frequency, notoriety and widespread acknowledgement of Mr. Jacobs’ behavior by so many individuals both inside and outside City Hall who interacted with the mayor’s office.”