As they get ready to face off in their first debate, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle called for Assemblyman Gordon Johnson to once and for all clarify allegations of inappropriate sexual comments made against him earlier this year.
Vainieri Huttle raised the issue after Johnson posted on social media in support for Denim Day on social media, which takes place on the last Wednesday of April to raise awareness to combat victim blaming and educate others about sexual assault.
“At the end of the day, one thing is abundantly clear: as I have fought for survivors of sexual violence and harassment, Gordon has been accused of it,” said Vainieri Huttle. “So, Gordon, let’s stop with the charade, stop dodging questions about your actions and while you’re at it, stop taking credit for your opponents hard work.”
In the post in question, Johnson stated “Denim Day is more than about wearing jeans, it’s about standing with survivors. I have spent my entire adult life fighting for justice and equality for those victimized, harassed, assaulted, or discriminated against. I will not stop now. This past year I helped author legislation to improve the way sexual assault survivors are treated and protected in the criminal justice system. It wasn’t the ceiling for survivors’ rights, but is, now, the floor. #BelieveHer”
Vainieri Huttle reacted by stating it was hypocritically for Johnson to post about his record on sexual assault when what she see as his failure to answer to the voters of District 37 regarding allegations of sexual misconduct.
“On Denim Day, an opportunity to raise awareness around the issue of sexual violence, Gordon Johnson spread claims that he has been ‘fighting for justice and equality for those victimized, harassed, assaullted or discriminated against’,” stated Vainieri Huttle. “Let’s get one thing clear, you cannot claim to support survivors when you have remained silent in the face of your own sexual misconduct allegations. You certainly cannot claim to believe survivors when you’ve remained silent.”
“Gordon, you brought this up—now you need to come clean.”
At issue is the public accusation against Johnson made by Deidere Paul in March that Johnson in 2008 made comments to her that were “inappropriate and unacceptable coming from a public official” and of “past and present sexual improprieties.”
In an interview with North-JerseyNews.com this month, Johnson responded that he had never been accused of inappropriate behavior before and does not have any recollection of this meeting with Paul where she alleges he offered to help her move up the political ladder if she became a member of his “concubine.”
“I am not going to disparage her in any way. Dr. Paul supported me before this email came out and she supported me after,” stated Johnson, who said since the allegations became public he has attempted to reach Dr. Paul but has not spoken to her.
The Johnson campaign said they would have no further comments for this story beyond the Assemblyman’s previous comments.
For Vainieri Huttle, this is a pattern of Johnson just showing up to vote and taking credit for work done by others.
“(This) is another clear example of Gordon’s hypocrisy: as Gordon has remained silent about his allegations of sexual misconduct, he has touted his sponsorship of legislation to protect survivors of sexual violence, legislation authored by me, his opponent,” said the Assemblywoman.
The two candidates, vying to be the Democratic nominee in the 37th Legislative District to replace the retiring State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, will debate the issues on May 2 at 9 p.m. being hosted by New Jersey Globe.