The Times-Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue had an interesting little expose’ today on the first of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ scandals – namely, the Johnny Anderson sexual harassment fiasco. It turns out that O’Donoghue tracked down Juanita Washington, the woman whom Anderson forced his Harvey Weinstein act on and made her life a living hell for several months following Edwards’ ill-fated decision to make him Deputy Chief of Staff.
Washington said Anderson’s harassment began even as he was interviewing her for a job in Edwards’ administration, days after the governor was sworn in. Instead of an interview, Washington said, Anderson locked the door to his office in the Capitol, grabbed her breasts and vagina and demanded she give him oral sex.
While she worked at the governor’s office under Anderson’s supervision, Washington said Anderson regularly sent her sexually explicit text messages, requested naked photos of her, masturbated in front of her and fondled her during private meetings he scheduled during the work day. Washington said she felt pressured to go along because she desperately needed the job to provide care for her elderly parents and her daughter with medical problems.
Washington, the state and Anderson signed an agreement last spring to settle her allegations, in which she received a payment from the state for, among other things, “claims of personal and bodily injury,” according to a document she provided. The document does not detail the injury.
Oh, yeah. No wonder more than $85,000 of our tax dollars went into a settlement for this lady. Anderson, who was let go when the initial story broke about his treatment of Washington last year, had a history of this type of behavior – he was dumped off the Southern University Board when, as chairman, he was groping the female staff back then. Any cursory background check would have turned up a report of what he did, but Edwards hired him anyway as a sop to the black preachers – of whom Johnny Anderson, believe it or not, is one.
What kind of church teaches this kind of behavior, we can’t say (and you can leave your Catholic priest jokes aside for now)…
On Jan. 14, 2016, three days after Edwards was sworn in as governor, Washington texted Anderson to ask when and where he wanted to meet to finalize her job offer. She showed a reporter these and dozens of other texts in her phone exchanged over months with two different phone numbers, which she said belonged to Anderson. A reporter has reached Anderson multiple times through one of the phone numbers Washington provided. The second number was answered recently by a voicemail recording saying the caller had reached “Johnny G. Anderson, the deputy chief of staff for programs and planning for Gov. John Bel Edwards”. A message left to that number was not answered.
What awaited Washington on the fourth floor of the Capitol wasn’t what she expected, she said. She showed up for the final job interview, only to have Anderson lock his office door behind her, she said. Almost immediately, Anderson asked Washington to walk around his desk and come closer to him. Washington said he started touching her breasts and vagina. While Anderson was sitting in his desk chair, he unzipped his pants, grabbed her head and pushed it toward his penis, asking for oral sex, she said.
Washington said she didn’t tell Anderson to stop because she was in shock. She said she did what Anderson asked, and then left to meet the staff member who she would replace. The next day, she filled out paperwork with the human resources department to take the job, but did not inform that department about what she says Anderson did to her.
Washington said she felt trapped. Her family was depending on her for an income and health insurance. She said she felt her job would be at risk if she refused Anderson’s advances.
“It’s almost like I was doing it for survival, like where you are a hostage,” Washington said.
The job interview was only the beginning, Washington said. She said Anderson sent her sexually explicit messages often and pleaded and pressured her for sexual favors. During other meetings in his office, she said he touched her breasts and vagina and masturbated in front of her. He also groped her several times in an automobile when they were traveling to New Orleans for work once, she said. Washington said she performed oral sex only one time on Anderson and they never had intercourse.
Anderson resigned in late November 2017, hours after Edwards was shown text messages exchanged between Anderson and Washington, the governor’s office said.
“Within one day of being notified of these accusations against Mr. Anderson, his resignation was demanded and accepted,” Carbo said. “Prior to this instance, there was not a single complaint of any nature regarding Mr. Anderson filed with our office.”
Washington isn’t the only person who raised concerns about Anderson’s behavior while he worked for the governor. About a month after Anderson resigned, another woman told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune he had acted inappropriately toward her over social media when she was trying to lobby the governor’s office for a partnership with her faith-based nonprofit.
That woman, who does not want to be named, never filed a formal complaint, but said she talked to the governor’s office about her concerns once Washington’s allegations were public. Anderson has denied he harassed that woman.
That Anderson did what he did is regrettable, obviously, but Carbo, Edwards’ media flunky, would have a point about how he was shown the gate immediately after the governor found out what was going on – except for the history of the bad behavior. And taken in tandem with the Larry Bankston situation, for example, in which Edwards appointed a convicted bribe-taker to be the executive counsel for the state contractors’ licensing board only to see Bankston make a mess by suspiciously blowing up a flood recovery contract in what looked like an attempt to favor another company for whom his son worked, what it looks like is a comic level of incompetence.
Or maybe it’s just that Edwards is a throwback to good-ol-boy Democrat politics in the state, and this is what good-ol-boy Louisiana Democrat politics produces – morons of low character in positions of power, with highly predictable bad behavior. It takes a tradition of failure to rank near the bottom of all the public policy metrics, and the Anderson mess shows this governor hews closely to that tradition.
The question is whether the voters give a damn. We’ll find out next fall.