This ‘Progressive’ PR Firm Is Shutting Down After a Disturbing Sexual Harrassment Scandal

December 18, 2015, 5:39 PM UTC
Sexual harassment at the workplace
Photography by Novastock—Getty Images

FitzGibbon Media, a prominent public relations firm that worked with progressive organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Center for Transgender Equality shut down on Thursday after the firm’s founder and president, Trevor FitzGibbon, abruptly resigned.

In a statement obtained by the Huffington Post, former FitzGibbon employees explained that the closure was due to the sexual allegations made against FitzGibbon. “The team that comprised FitzGibbon Media is incredibly sad and disappointed to confirm that allegations have been made against Trevor FitzGibbon…for sexual assault and harassment of multiple female staffers,” the statement reads. “Staffers reported over a half dozen incidents of sexual harassment and at least two involving sexual assault committed by Trevor FitzGibbon against his own employees.”

Fortune obtained a statement by FitzGibbon himself, in which he writes that the allegations against him are “a distraction to the mission at hand” and calls the reason for his leaving an “irreconcilable difference” between the himself and his employees:

It is with tremendous regret that we had to close FitzGibbon Media. Our team was at the helm of many of the most important policy debates of our time. We were the undisputed communications leader for the progressive movement. Although the company is closing, our talents and our mission remain unchanged. The allegations against me are a distraction to the mission at hand. In order to do what is best for the company, I took a leave of absence. However, it is abundantly clear that an irreconcilable difference has arisen between the FitzGibbon team and me. We had no choice but to make the difficult decision to close FitzGibbon Media. I apologize to my team and our clients for the impact this closing will have on them. I will work to once again regain the trust that was lost.

Regaining trust may be difficult with tales like the ones told to HuffPo now public information. One woman, who had tried to get a job with the company, recounted an instance where FitzGibbon tried to pressure her in exchange for a job. “He tried to make me feel very uncomfortable. He made it seem like I owed him these things to get the job. … I was not entertaining it at all. I didn’t ask for it,” she told the publication. A female client that had worked with FitzGibbon told an even more enraging story. “I got a phone call, I was literally on the phone, he came over and stuck his hand right down and grabbed my breast,” she recounted.

Ilyse Hogue, president of the firm’s former clients, pro-choice advocacy group NARAL issued a statement in support of the PR firm’s former employees: “At NARAL, we are distressed and saddened by the alleged misconduct of the FitzGibbon Media president. No one should be subjected to sexual assault or harassment anywhere but least of all in the places we work and live. These kinds of actions are antithetical to our values and to a just and equal society. Our thoughts are with all the staff affected,” she said.

Twitter, too, has come out in support of the former FitzGibbon team, with users urging others to share job listings with the affected employees, who were let go without bonuses and no severance. Their last paychecks will be issued at the end of this month, and their health care will be discontinued after January.

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