Marianne Williamson speaks at the Democratic Party’s Wing Ding fundraiser in Clear Lake Friday. Williamson staffers said at the event that Williamson defends the hiring of a new Iowa state director who previously was accused of sexual assault. (Photo by Caitlin Yamada)
Marianne Williamson speaks at the Democratic Party’s Wing Ding fundraiser in Clear Lake Friday. Williamson staffers said at the event that Williamson defends the hiring of a new Iowa state director who previously was accused of sexual assault. (Photo by Caitlin Yamada)

August 12, 2019

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is defending the hiring of a new Iowa state director who was purged from Bernie Sanders’ political circle after being accused of forcibly kissing a woman on the final night of the 2016 Democratic Presidential Convention — an assault Williamson’s new staffer insists never occurred.

Williamson, a spiritual advisor and best-selling author who is seeking the Democratic nomination, recently hired Robert Becker, a veteran political operative with experience in Iowa stretching back into the 1990s.

Becker and other Williamson staffers talked with the Times Herald Friday night in Clear Lake at the Democratic Party’s Wing Ding fundraiser about a potential upcoming event in Carroll and other planned Williamson appearances in the newspaper’s coverage area.

The Times Herald raised the issue of Becker’s controversial status in the party in the conversation, asking if Williamson’s campaign believes Becker or is giving him a road to professional redemption, as forgiveness is central in Williamson’s writings. Becker denied sexually assaulting the former female staffer in an interview with The Times Herald.

“I’ve known Robert Becker for 30 years. He is a stand-up guy. What he is accused of, through the press, does not make sense given the person I know,” Patricia Ewing, Williamson’s communications director, said in a statement to the Times Herald. “We are talking about someone who risked a prison term in Egypt to defend his staff in 2011. Robert Becker has run campaigns across this country and has proven time and again he has zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace. On his last campaign, this policy led him to immediately fire three people for harassment.”

The Times Herald could not reach the woman who made the allegations against Becker; the newspaper does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Politico, which broke the story on the alleged assault, reports that the woman, whose account was corroborated by three other people who either witnessed the encounter or were told about it soon after, said “(c)andidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government.”

Ewing said Williamson takes the accusations seriously.

“After many hours of candid conversation with Robert and numerous people who have worked both with him and on opposing sides, we believe the opportunity for professional redemption is appropriate,” Ewing said in a statement. “Providing all staff and volunteers with a safe and positive working environment is a top priority. All Marianne 2020 campaign staff are required to take a course to help prevent and identify workplace harassment. Robert has successfully completed the course. We welcome Robert to the campaign and are confident that he will be an effective, professional and trustworthy Iowa state director.”

Becker, one of the leaders of Sanders’ efforts in Iowa in 2016, was poised to be involved in the Vermont senator’s White House campaign in the Hawkeye State until Politico earlier this year reported the story on the alleged assault in a Philadelphia bar.