Jennifer Carnahan's tenure as chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota came under increased pressure Sunday thanks to a statement issued by the party in her defense.
Already facing calls for her resignation over her close links to alleged child sex trafficker Anton Lazzaro, those calls have intensified after an official statement by the party was published Sunday afternoon, which followed an allegation of sexual harassment posted in recent days on Twitter involving a Minnesota GOP staffer in Georgia assisting with the election recounts last November.
After the allegation of sexual misconduct emerged, it was alleged that Carnahan flew to Georgia to deal with the fallout – a claim that the Republican Party of Minnesota denied in the Sunday statement, while also saying that no formal complaint was made to Carnahan or other party leaders.
The statement then went on to say: "The allegation in question occurred in November 2020 and involved two Minnesota staff members in Georgia working on the run-off. The Chairwoman was not made aware of this allegation until April 7, 2021, during her re-election."
An edited statement was issued a short-time after, changing the last line to say: "The Chairwoman was not made aware of this allegation until April 7, 2021, during her re-election, after the claim had been resolved."
In any case, the fact that the party was confirming that Carnahan had been aware of the allegation since April sparked immediate controversy given that this information had seemingly not been shared at the time with other leading party members.
Bobby Benson, a member of the Minnesota GOP executive board, tweeted: "I’m sorry what? She didn’t know immediately, but she still knew in April and … what? The board certainly wasn’t made aware. This is one of the most time deaf statements I’ve EVER read. She must resign immediately."
Sen. Karin Housley, who was one of the first Republican lawmakers to call for Carnahan's resignation in the wake of Lazzaro's indictment, posted a statement in a tweet stating: "It's time."
"Just when you think it couldn't get worse, it does. That Republican Party of Minnesota leadership could have known about sexual harassment allegations involving one of its staff and done nothing is beyond the pale and reprehensible.
"The events that have transpired in recent days are shocking and embarrassing for our party. They have become a distraction from the work we need to be doing as Republicans in 2022. For the good of the party, I call on Jennifer Carnahan to resign and urge the executive board to take action to remove her from the position should she remain."
On Sunday, Carnahan posted on her Facebook page that the past week has seen her become the the subject of a "coup" attempt by those seeking to displace her as party chair, as well as "smear my reputation and defame me."
Among the other allegations that have emerged this week was a report by the Minnesota Reformer that Carnahan has used non-disclosure agreements to "stifle criticism"
The Minnesota GOP executive board met on Sunday evening, during which it reportedly voted to ban NDAs, as well as conduct a financial audit.
The GOP is not alone in being under scrutiny for sexual harassment allegations over the past month. The Senate DFL was roiled three weeks ago after it emerged that a former aide had complained about being subjected to months of harassment by a party operative, but her complaint went un-investigated.