Bernie Sanders adviser accused of harassing female staffer in 2016

Bernie Sanders at a George Washington University event in Washington

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders apologized Thursday to women who say they were harassed while working on his 2016 presidential campaign. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart for speaking out.

"The allegations that I have heard, that you have heard, speak to unacceptable behavior that must not be tolerated in any campaign, or in any workplace in our country".

Sanders said that his 2018 Senate re-election campaign had more robust protections for women. "Our standards and safeguards were inadequate".

Politico reported late Wednesday that Robert Becker - who oversaw Sanders' 2016 Iowa campaign, then helped lead his efforts in Michigan, California and NY as deputy national field director - allegedly approached a 20-year-old campaign staffer, grabbed her wrists and forcibly kissed her, "putting his tongue in her mouth as he held her".

"I categorically deny these allegations of improper and unprofessional conduct", Becker said in a statement.

Becker allegedly approached the woman at a restaurant and hookah bar following the convention and told her "he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his 'pole, ' according to the woman and three other people who witnessed what happened or were told about it shortly afterward by people who did", says the report. She reported the harassment after he contacted her again for a possible 2020 campaign.

Sanders has not personally been the focus of any of the accusations.

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The woman did not report the incident at the time since the campaign was finished but has come forward now as Becker has been involved with potential 2020 groundwork.

"I was little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case", Sanders told CNN on January 2.

More than two dozen former staffers recently sent a letter to Sanders and his aides, seeking a meeting regarding the "sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign" ahead of another bid for the presidency.

"Robert Becker would not be a part of any future campaigns", the statement said, "No one who committed sexual harassment in 2016 would be back if there were a 2020 campaign".

Brett Carlsen via Getty Images Onetime presidential hopeful Sen.

"We are addressing what happened on the Bernie campaign but as people that work in this space we see that all campaigns are extremely risky to women and marginalized people and we are attempting to fix that", the campaign staffers wrote.

The Vermont independent is confronting the allegations against some of his senior staff as he weighs a second run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Though the allegations against Sanders' campaign are far-reaching, the issue of sexual harassment has been pervasive across the political spectrum and beyond, as brought to light in the wake of the Me Too movement.

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