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Hillary Clinton’s faith-reaching counsel accused of sexual harassment

Burns Strider, who was a senior adviser to the 2008 campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaks during a 2016 presidential forum in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis)

This story has been updated with tweets from Hillary Clinton.

Former Hillary Clinton faith outreach counselor has been accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a woman in Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, according to a report from the New York Times. Supposedly, Clinton chose to protect Burns Strider, who led his religious outreach efforts, instead of dismissing him as recommended by his campaign manager.

Clinton, who taught Sunday school and raised money for charities, often had trouble talking comfortably from her United Methodist faith in the election campaign, saying it did not come from a tradition in which people used the faith in your sleeves. Strider, a gregarious Southern Baptist, e-mailed Clinton's daily Bible readings every morning during his 2008 campaign and served as a liaison for religious classes. Politico in 2014 described Strider as "a favorite of Hillary Clinton."

Strider did not respond to telephone messages from The Washington Post.

"The complaint against Mr. Strider was made by a 30-year-old woman who shared an office with him," says the New York Times report. "She told a campaign official that Strider had rubbed her shoulders inappropriately, kissed her on the forehead and sent her a series of suggestive emails, including at least one during the night, according to three former campaign officials. with what happened. "

The Times reports that the complaint was brought to Clinton's campaign manager at the time, who suggested that Strider be fired. Clinton declined.

"Strider received several weeks of salary and was ordered to receive counseling, and the girl was transferred to a new job," says the report. The woman, who was not mentioned in the report, has not spoken publicly about her experience.

Clinton tweeted Friday night that she was "dismayed when it happened, but she was glad that the girl approached, listened, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed."

However, Clinton did not address the report's suggestion that she decided to keep Strider in the campaign. He said he called the woman who made the accusations today "to tell him how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard."

Strider was part of a small group that has pushed the Democratic Party to expand its faith reach. While the reach of religious voters has naturally come to many in the Republican Party, with many of its leaders like Vice President Pence open about the faith, Democrats have struggled to formalize the outreach outside of the black church appearances. The scope of the Democrats' faith began to be formalized in the mid-2000s in the Howard Dean campaign and later under the John F. Kerry campaign.

"When it comes to the scope of religion in terms of the trust she placed in him and his ability to know all the players, it was the best "said Amy Sullivan," The faithful party: how and why the democrats are closing the gap of God. " "He could counteract the stereotype of cold and atheist democrats because he was a very good boy from Mississippi who had a thick southern accent and had a history of coming to Christ." That's not something that most Democrats walk into evangelical spaces knowing how to do it ".

Strider also knew who he could specifically target within religious circles that would be open to a Democratic candidate. For example, Sullivan said, he could explain the differences between the Southern Baptists and the more progressive Baptist Cooperating Fraternity.

Strider in the mid-1990s spent three years as youth minister with a Southern Baptist mission in Hong Kong. He has long been part of a group of Democrats pressuring candidates to talk more about their faith and to run more confidently for voters who say religion is a priority.

Along with Mara Vanderslice Kelly, who worked for Kerry, Strider was one of the first to implement the strategic approach of Democrats to religious voters. He established conversations between Pentecostals and Clinton, assuming that, since many Pentecostals had women in the leadership of the church, they could be more receptive to a female candidate. It also helped behind-the-scenes work that led to a 2008 conversation between Clinton and then-candidate Barack Obama at Messiah College, where Clinton spoke openly about her faith.

But Strider, who previously worked for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Was largely absent from the Clinton campaign in 2016. Strider spoke about her work for Clinton at a meeting at Calvin College in the spring of 2017 There he said he continued to work for her "even after he stopped paying me." He said that the Democratic campaigns would only establish meetings in the black churches instead of going beyond their usual base to the white churches.

Strider co-founded one of the few outreach consultancies for the Democrats, called the Eleison Group.

Strider led an independent group that supported Clinton's candidacy in 2011, called Correct the Record, but was fired after several months for workplace issues, including accusations that he harassed a young assistant, according to The Times. report

People close to Strider say that he was a key advisor to Clinton, and that he would often be the go-between in engaging in conversations with religious leaders such as the wife of the megachurch pastor, Rick Warren, Kay Warren, and the popular author and speaker Tony Campolo. . Several people who have made faith contacts for the Democratic Party told The Washington Post that the party does not seem particularly interested or anxious to make much closer to religious voters at this time. Some fear that this type of advertising directed to Strider does not help the cause.

He was in the first wave of Clinton employees during the 2008 campaign and built a specific kind of trust and closeness, Sullivan said. He played a pastoral role, praying with her and for her.

"He does not apologize for anything he could have done, but I do not think this is a matter of Hillary Clinton protecting any staff member," Sullivan said. "I think she would have hesitated too much to let him go."

Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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