Pa. Democratic adviser responds to controversy over Facebook posts

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Valerie Kean Staab

An adviser to the head of the state Democratic Party said Friday that she wanted to “set the record” straight about her recent Facebook posts arguing that some women exaggerate sexual harassment claims, saying she was not speaking for the party and supports women who are victims of abuse.

Valerie Kean Staab’s  statement came as Allegheny County Democratic Chairwoman Nancy Mills called for the state party to sever ties with her and for its chairman, Marcel Groen, to apologize or step down over his “woefully inadequate response to these disgusting posts.”

Both major political parties are struggling to respond to allegations that some of their elected officials have mistreated women.

A story in the Inquirer and Daily News on Friday concerned Facebook posts Staab made on her personal account. She wrote, among other things, that “these omg he touched my ass bulls— has to stop” and she’s “never been a big fan of women to start with.”

She suggested that women who are sexually assaulted should call the police and “if someone touched your ass go get counseling.”

Groen said then that her remarks were “not the line of the party” but that it was important to let people speak “as long as they don’t cross the line.”

On Friday, Staab, who is among a handful of advisers to Groen, issued a five-paragraph statement that read in part:

“These comments have been interpreted by some as being insensitive, which was never my intent. It is also being suggested that I am not supportive of women, and that I somehow speak for an entire political party. Neither of these assertions are accurate.”

Staab said she has spent years “encouraging qualified, competent women to seek public office and then doing everything in my power to help elect them.”

She “will not be satisfied until we can permanently eliminate all forms of gender inequity and sexual harassment from our society,” she added

Staab is not paid for her party work. She said her Facebook comments were those of a private citizen, and do not represent the Democratic Party; the statement did not address whether she would stop advising Groen.

“As such, I sincerely hope that we can move forward from this and I apologize to those who were hurt by my comments,” she said.

Staab’s remarks came a short while after Mills issued a statement calling for the party to end ties with Staab.

Mills said in a statement that “no victim’s complaint about sexual harassment or assault should ever be dismissed, and Ms. Staab’s social media posts degrading women and minimizing harassment and assault are horrific.” She also called on Groen to apologize or step down.

In a brief telephone interview, Groen declined to respond directly to Mills’ demands.

“I condemn sexual violence or workplace harassments in any form on anyone,” Groen said. He said he recognized that those situations can be “harrowing” for survivors and empathizes with them. “End of story.”