In the thick of the #MeToo movement, one Maryland state senator says she too was touched inappropriately by a lobbyist at a pub in March.
The entire embrace lasts five seconds.
In a video from lobbyist and former delegate Gil Genn, you can see an embrace between him and State Senator Cheryl Kagan.
It happened at Castlebay Irish Pub on Main Street in Annapolis.
Kagan says where Genn placed his hand as he was talking to her was out of line.
"The footage clearly shows him placing a hand non my back and sliding it down my body," Kagan said.
She spoke about the conversation in Annapolis on Tuesday. She says from that moment, she wanted her and Genn's interaction to end.
"I walked out. The evening was ruined fro me. I walked down Main Street, still really angry. If he could touch me in that way -- imagine what he does; has been doing for years to interns, junior staff, and yes -- legislators," Kagan said.
But Genn says what happened didn't play out how Kagan described.
His lawyer sent us security video from the exchange, as well as a four-page rebuttal to Kagan's claims -- a play-by-play to every moment seen in the video.
In his statement, Genn says he placed his hand for a few seconds on Kagan's back, leaning in to talk above the noise of the music about election bills.
From there, he says the two laughed at his comments.
"It was really uncomfortable. I wanted the incident ot end. I wanted the interaction to end," Kagan said.
She says Genn went too far and at a moment where women are speaking up about incidents where they've been harassed or provoked, it's time to take action.
"Initially this was a story about a lobbyist who put his hand where it was not welcome. Today, it's about integrity, honesty, and reputation," Kagan said.
In the last days of the legislative session, Kagan is supporting a bill that'd change the legislature's anti-harassment policy to include lobbyists and other people who come into contact and work with lawmakers.
"As well as add independent investigators to assess allegations and establish meaningful consequences to those who have been found to have acted inappropriately or illegally," she said.
Genn is also in support of the bill, but maintains his innocence.
As of now, there is no lawsuit, but Genn says he wants an apology. Kagan filed a complaint with human resources.
READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM GIL GENN
In the last week, Senator Kagan mentioned there might be videotapes.1 And yes, Lordy, thankfully there are videotapes!
Last night, my counsel2 and their investigator obtained from the restaurant a videotape of my interaction with Senator Kagan from its surveillance system. I am releasing them to the public now (clip attached).
The video shows clearly that I did not grope Senator Kagan, slide my hand “down, down, down…” or “grab [her] tush.” With the release of this video, it is now beyond dispute that I did not grab or grope her, as has been reported in the press from Senator Kagan’s statements.
The last 12 days have been among the most painful of my life. Since a week ago Friday, Senator Kagan has made numerous false allegations against me:
■On March 1 at 11:28 p.m. Senator Kagan put out a statement on Facebook saying “Damn-- I can't believe it just happened again! With all the conversation, awareness, and press about #MeToo, did a lobbyist truly just put his hand on my back and slide it down down down...? #DefinitelyNOTacceptable. I am SO tempted to start naming names as a consequence!”
■The next day, she issued a public statement naming me for sexually harassing her and she was shocked by my “brazen attitude for disrespecting women’s boundaries.” ■On March 2, Senator Kagan told the Daily Record that “she was at the pub for weekly karaoke and drinking a club soda when Genn, a lobbyist at Bellamy Genn Group, approached her, talking about the singing.” That’s when she alleges I grabbed her tush (or groped her, as
1On March 9 at 10:20 a.m. Senator Kagan posted on Facebook that “I learned last night that Castlebay Irish Pub has video cameras inside. Sure hope that my make-up was looking good last Thursday! #CandidCamera#NotDelusional.”
2 I am represented by Timothy F. Maloney, Esq. and the law firm of Joseph, Greenwald and Laake, P.A.
2 reported in the Post), and then ”…I turned my back to him and made it clear that the conversation was over.”
■In a profile of Senator Kagan on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that “when lobbyist Gil Genn allegedly groped her this month, Kagan decided she could not remain silent, galvanized by the national #MeToo movement and the increased discussion of alleged sexual harassment in the Maryland General Assembly.” “Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong way,” said Kagan.
These are just a few of the many public statements Senator Kagan’s has made in the past 12 days that are now belied by this video. Now, with the good fortune of this video tape, you can judge for yourself. Many in the public have read them and believed them, or questioned my character. The damage to my reputation has been incalculable, as well as the suffering and harm to my family and our business. But thankfully, the video is the final arbiter here.
Senator Kagan owes me and my family an apology. She must immediately remove her false Facebook posts about me. But she cannot remove her false allegations from the Internet, which will always be there any time someone Googles my name. That damage is permanent and irreparable, and my counsel is reviewing what can be done about it.
The video clearly shows me approaching Senator Kagan, placing my hand for a few seconds on her back, while I leaned in to speak to her above the noise of the music. I mentioned to her the election bills heard in committee that morning, and told her that “I still think you would be a good election administrator,” a position she had told me years ago she was interested in. (:004). She raises her head back and laughed. (:0005). A few seconds later, she laughed at another remark I made. (:0011).
Eight seconds later, she introduces me to her former aide, Justin Fiore. (:0019). She points out me and tells Mr. Fiore some things about me while he and I are shaking hands. For the next one minute and six seconds, we continue our conversation. My left hand was in my front left pocket starting at (0:43). Senator Kagan nodded at something I said and pointed her finger up in agreement. (00:54). During our conversation, a woman active in legislative matters walked up and extended her hand to me to shake her hand, which I did, and after she walked away, I described the woman’s work with the legislature. Senator Kagan then nodded in agreement again at something I said. (1:13). Senator Kagan then took a sip from her drink. (1:16). She gave me a thumbs-up. (1:17). I shook hands again with her former aide (but not Senator Kagan) and touched him on the elbow, said good-bye, I waved to Senator Kagan and walked away. (1:25).
During the entire one minute and 26 seconds, I never ran my hand down her back. I never grabbed her tush. I never groped her. My hand was on her back for the first four seconds while I leaned in to tell her she would still be a good election administrator when she laughed. I
never had any other physical contact with her that night, for the next one minute and 21 seconds on the video, or at any other time.
The video contradicts nearly every other description Senator Kagan gave of our encounter. For instance, she told the Daily Record “after Delegate Genn put his hand on me, I turned my back to him and made it clear that the conversation was over,” Kagan said. (March 5) She told the Washington Post that “I turned my body toward Justin [her former aide], kind of wanting to freeze Gil out, to send the message, I’m in a conversation, leave now, please.” (March 11).
The video shows none of this is true. Senator Kagan never once turned away from me. She remained actively engaged in our conversation for the next one minute and 19 seconds. She laughed, nodded at me, introduced me to her former aide, sipped from her drink, and even gave me a “thumbs up” toward the end.
Today, I am incredibly grateful for many things. I am thankful that the Castlebay Irish Pub has a videotape system and this event was preserved for all to see. After Senator Kagan’s allegation, many people who did not known me rushed to judgment after reading one-sided media accounts. Without this video, many people would have always believed I groped Senator Kagan, when I did not.
Many women have offered to write letters, such as the attached statements of support from former Delegate Carmen Amedori and Karen Barbour. I am especially grateful for the strong support of countless legislators, family and friends who have stood by me and offered simple acts of kindness.
And I am deeply grateful for the support of my partner and our clients who had faith in me and stuck with me, even when some publicly called for my clients to fire me.
I harbor no ill will toward Senator Kagan. I have known her for over 30 years. We served together. We have worked on issues together. Each year, I have been the one lobbyist who attends her fundraisers, year in and year out. I continue to support the legislation that Senator Kagan supports that will also provide a strong, independent body to fairly and impartially consider sexual harassment claims.
We need this legislation. I pray that no one else has to endure the false allegations, like I did, by an accuser who chooses to resolve her claim in the media, instead of providing due process before a fair and independent forum. What happened here demonstrates the terrible danger of rushing to judgment in the media and the public.
It remains to be seen how Senator Kagan’s false groping allegation —- and her reckless disregard for due process and the truth —- might cause an unintended backlash and undermine the otherwise very legitimate and meritorious objectives of the #MeToo movement and its advocates (of which I am one). Sexual harassment is a real and pervasive problem in our society. But false and inaccurate allegations of sexual harassment, such as Senator Kagan’s, make it harder for real victims to come forward and be believed. The fact that Senator Kagan’s allegations turned out not to be true should not diminish our commitment to support the many real victims of sexual harassment.
I hope this episode is a teaching moment for all of us. For me, one thing it has taught me to have humility about our memory. I knew that I did not grope Senator Kagan or grab her tush.
But the video shows that there are other less important aspects of that night that I did not remember correctly. Of the hundreds of one-minute interactions during the day, I never imagined I would have to reconstruct this late-night one, step-by-step, second by second at some time in the future. But now, today, we can reconstruct it, frame-by-frame, on the video. People can judge for themselves.
As I say, Lordy, thank you for videotape