‘I was focused on the pandemic’: NM Dem Gov explains choice to settle sex harassment lawsuit

New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham defended her settlement in a lawsuit with a former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual harassment.

On Friday, she made her first statement to reporters about the $62,500 settlement in a case with a former campaign staffer who accused her of grabbing his crotch during a staff meeting in 2018.

“I was focused on the pandemic, and I’ll stand by that decision [to settle] every minute of every day,” she said.

Grisham’s court documents revealed that her campaign made a series of five payments of $12,500 to the law firm representing her former campaign spokesman, James Hallinan. State campaign finance regulators say the payments from the campaign fund were acceptable because they were due to an issue related to Hallinan’s employment with the campaign.

In late 2019, Hallinan accused Grisham of dumping water on his crotch and laughing while she grabbed his genitals through his clothes. The alleged incident is said to have taken place at New Mexico state Representative Deborah Armstrong’s home, though she denied that she witnessed any harassment.

Grisham also denied that the claims had ever been independently investigated. Grisham said she had “not seen anywhere in the country where there’s an independent investigation over an employment claim”

However, she apparently does not read the news because it’s a well-known fact that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is under investigation for sexually harassing several women. New York Attorney General Letitia James confirmed in a statement that they are “committed to an independent and thorough investigation of the facts.”

“After years of vehement denial, Governor Lujan Grisham’s now revealed sexual harassment settlement certainly raises questions of why she tried to discredit her alleged victim,” Republican Governors Association spokesman Will Reinert wrote in an email, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Jared Leopold, Grisham’s campaign spokesman, previously indicated the settlement was part of “an agreement settling numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.”

Leopold also indicated that Grisham and the campaign organization itself “strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims, including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign,” according to a report by the Las Cruces Sun News.

“They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic,” Leopold continued.

“Do [you] see a pattern? When D[emocrat]s accuse D[emocrat]s of sexual harassment Media ignores. But D[emocrat]s accusing R[Republican]s is important,” economist and former Trump official John Lott tweeted.

What about all us other New Mexicans who got kicked there, instead of grabbed, by @GovMLG shutdown policies?” tweeted another in response to the allegations.

Another person, likely a Democrat unconcerned with behaving ethically, tweeted, “I’ll let you grab my crotch anytime.”

Last week Grisham made headlines when she announced her reelection bid and dismissed rowdy protesters as “Qanon lizard people” at the campaign event that she was forced to end early due to the disruptive protesters. A subsequent event was also canceled over security concerns.

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