Don’t dismiss what Katie Rotondi has to say.
Then again, don’t believe her either.
It all depends on who is talking.
A week ago, Katie Rotondi, the chair of the Sussex County Democratic Committee, publicly accused her Warren County counterpart, Tom Palmieri, of making offensive comments to her. Rotondi said she spoke about the allegations at a private meeting of a state Sen. Loretta Weinberg-led group looking into sexual harassment and misogyny in New Jersey politics.
Palmieri immediately called the allegations false and a group of women primarily from Sussex fired off a statement supporting the Warren chairman. It expressed confidence that Palmieri would never do
anything inappropriate in his dealings with women.
That prompted Weinberg’s group to say it was “disheartened” at the instant support for Palmieri and to complain that his female supporters were rushing to judgement.
And that’s bad.
A statement from Weinberg’s group condemned a “concerted effort to discredit women (such as Rotondi) as soon as they muster the courage to come forward.” It said that such a reflex action “serves as a deterrent that has long prevented many survivors from speaking up.”‘
We’re not done yet.
Today, the original group of Sussex women who backed Palmieri doubled down. And this time the group was expanded to include “the women Democratic leaders from Sussex and Warren Counties.”
In a sharply-worded statement, this now-larger group said sexual assault, harassment and misogyny are grave concerns, but so are “false allegations of sexual misconduct.”
It said such allegations not only destroy lives and reputations, they make it harder for legitimate victims of sexual harassment and assault to get justice.
Referring to their original statement, today’s missive said, “We thought we would be heard. We thought we would be believed.”
“Instead, we are being publicly denounced and discredited by Sen. Loretta Weinberg and her committee, …. ” the statement said.
This is pretty hard-hitting stuff. And it’s attacking Weinberg, the Senate Majority Leader and a respected elder in the state’s Democratic Party.
With Democratic women from varying sectors of New Jersey sniping at each other, it almost relegates Rotondi herself to the sidelines. But that’s not the case. She is involved in what seems to be a tough fight
for reelection as county chair at a June 9 convention of Sussex Dems.
But there’s still another voice out there to be heard.
That would be Janice Kovach, the mayor of Clinton. Rather than come down solidly on one side or the other, Kovach posted comments that hover over the center line.
Saying she is a survivor of “sexual assault and domestic abuse,” Kovach makes this point: “We must believe women when they come forward, and we must strive collectively to change the culture of politics in N.J. and throughout the United States. Believing women is not, however, the equivalent of leaving our capacity for thought and meaningful conversation behind.”
In what seems to be an understatement, especially considering how this saga is developing, Kovach said that stories and events of this type are “rarely black and white.”
Or easy to figure out.