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As former staffers share GOP sexual harassment allegations, Jennifer Carnahan says they're out to get her

The Minnesota GOP chairwoman spoke to two radio stations on Tuesday.
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Several more Minnesota Republicans have been sharing experiences of harassment they say they've endured within the party as the pressure increases on chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, who is facing calls to resign.

On Tuesday, Carnahan gave two radio interviews in which she addressed some of the issues that have roiled her party this week, starting with the indictment of GOP donor Anton Lazzaro for child sex trafficking, and continuing with allegations of sexual assault and harassment within the GOP that went un-investigated, and the alleged awarding of cash to employees in exchange for signing non-disclosure agreements.

Speaking with WCCO, Carnahan denied claims that she has ignored harassment complaints, describing the claims as stories from disgruntled former staffers or those with apparent axes to grind with her personally.

She also continues to argue that those calling for her resignation are trying to re-litigate the chair's race.

"Our party has absolutely followed the law, state and federal, and the HR processes, and our human resources manual, and our personnel policies with all of our committee exactly the way we're supposed to.

"You know, just because someone that maybe personally doesn't like me, or a disgruntled person from my past for whatever reason wants to come out and say something, that doesn't make it true.

"And I don't feel comfortable living in a world where just because someone said something, that makes it true. I could go out and say something tomorrow ... about any person out there and say, well, I heard this about you ... I'm going to go put it on Twitter, and that makes it true. I think we go down a very dangerous path."

Carnahan has called on the Minnesota GOP executive board to hold a confidence vote in her leadership when they meet Thursday, and said she doesn't think one would pass. If she were to be ousted from her leadership role, "I will honor and respect their decision," she said.

Yet in the wake of the interview, two more prominent young Republicans came forward to share their experiences of harassment within the party, with both critical of Carnahan's role in what they went through.

Republicans share harassment experiences

Among those coming forward with claims of harassment are Nia Moore, the chair of the Minnesota College Republicans, and former MCR chair Karly Hahn.

Moore said she has "personally experienced several counts of sexual harassment working within the MNGOP."

Among those was from someone she described as among those "closest" to Carnahan, with Moore noting that Carnahan was someone she had previously admired. This individual, who she did not name, allegedly told Moore she "needed people like him" to gain access to Carnahan and made drunken, "physically inappropriate advances" towards her.

She also said she endured "months" of sexual harassment from a married campaign staffer who was "brazen and consistent with inappropriate comments/touches."

While she doesn't blame Carnahan for the fact the harassment happened ("less than two years ago, I admired Jennifer Carnahan, I never wanted to be her enemy), she goes on to say: "However, I do not see young conservative women feeling safe to enter our political party with her as its leader.

"Her response to the recent sex trafficking allegations [against Anton Lazzaro] were underwhelming. From my understanding (not certain), she'd never launched any internal investigations over prior accusations," she added.

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The Minnesota College Republicans has called for Carnahan's resignation, releasing a statement on Sunday stating that one of its members was among the "multiple young women" harassed by a GOP employee, accusations against whom materialized Friday.

"It has been brought to our attention that MNGOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan was made aware of this incident, yet failed to take action. Presumably setting the precedent for how she would respond to future allegations made within the party," the statement said.

The statement continues to say that the same now-former employee has subsequently been accused of rape, and alleges that Carnahan has "maintained a public friendship with the former employee."

"Since releasing our statement," Moore continues in her statement, "I have spoken to numerous MNCRs (Minnesota College Republicans) ... who have similar and more severe stories.

"While I also share fears of retaliation – I cannot in good conscious [sic] as a leader to women remain silent."

Related: GOP statement on alleged sex harassment sparks new controversy for Jennifer Carnahan

Hahn issued her statement Tuesday evening, saying that she has "hesitated for years" in coming forward for fear of "what Jennifer would do to me."

She claims that partway into her first term as chairwoman of MCR, "it was brought to my attention that chairwoman Carnahan was sending horrendous allegations about me, backing it with false accusations that I was running a slanderous Twitter account about her."

Hahn says that she found out who was running the Twitter account, got it taken down, and received a written apology from the actor to prove to Carnahan it wasn't her. 

"She'll probably try to deny this, but I have documentation of the emails, the apology, and a voice recording of her acknowledging the apology," she continues, but claims the false allegations about her continued nonetheless, and she left Minnesota after graduating to pursue a career in elsewhere as a result.

"It is disheartening to see what she has done to our party," Hahn said. "She is not a leader. She's a self interested bully."

Another former staffer who issued a public statement regarding harassment was Francesca Zeller, the former Minnesota GOP political director, who told the Minnesota Reformer that Carnahan outed her as queer to other party activists, officials, and donors.

Her sexual identity, she says, was used to highlight the party's inclusivity to more progressive Republicans, and she was subjected to hostility from the anti-LGBTQ elements of the party. 

More than a week after George Floyd died, Zeller criticized Carnahan on Twitter for not having released a formal statement, and shared pictures from Carnahan's Instagram showing her by a pool in Arizona. In response, she says she received a cease-and-desist letter from Carnahan's lawyers.

You can read the full piece here.

Bring Me The News asked the Minnesota GOP about the allegations from Moore, Hahn, and Zeller, and received this response: “The Republican Party of Minnesota does not comment on human resources matters. The Party is confident that all state and federal employment, human resources laws and regulations have been properly adhered to."

Carnahan apologizes to cancer-suffering husband for 'not gonna be alive' comments

Another development that has raised eyebrows in the days that followed Lazzaro's indictment was an audio file shared on Twitter by former party activist Rebecca Brannon, in which a woman Brannon identifies as Carnahan talks about her husband, 1st District Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who has been battling cancer.

The recording of a telephone conversation sees Carnahan refer to her husband in somewhat scornful tones, telling the person she's speaking to: "Jim's gonna be, he's gonna die of cancer in two years" and "Ji'm not gonna be alive two years from now."

Asked about this during the radio interviews, Carnahan confirmed the voice was indeed hers, and says she's apologized to her husband.

"I was at an event. I had a long day, a meeting, you know, went out socializing, drinking wine and whatnot with friends. And I, you know, said something in grief that I shouldn't have said, and it's absolutely regrettable. I'm horrified by it. I've obviously apologized to my husband. I love him very much. And I'm going to continue to be by his side and be his biggest supporter and cheerleader, because what I've found is you need to stand by and support people together that are, that are fighting to be stage four cancer. And I am going to continue to do that for him. So I am horrified by it."

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