An investigation commissioned by the Lincoln Project to investigate allegations that co-founder John Weaver sexually harassed young men, one just 14 at the time, has cleared the organization of wrongdoing. The never-Trump political action committee’s announcement has been met with much skepticism.
In January, the New York Times reported that 21 men had accused Weaver of unwanted sexual advances, specifically offering professional help in exchange for sexual favors. At the time, the super PAC released a statement condemning Weaver, who is no longer part of the group, as a “predator, a liar, and an abuser.”
Many raised questions about how long other key figures with the Lincoln Project had known. Its co-founders claimed they knew nothing of Weaver’s conduct.
As fallout from the scandal continued, the group tweeted private messages between co-founder Jennifer Horn and reporter Amanda Becker of the 19th, a nonprofit media outlet. Horn had recently left the group; she said because it rejected her request to take on sexual harassment. The Lincoln Project claimed her departure was over a disagreement about compensation.
Becker later reported that the some members had known about the allegations against Weaver since March 2020. In a separate story, Becker also reported that the organization had a toxic, tumultuous culture plagued by infighting and sexist and homophobic language, some of which found its way into the Lincoln Project’s viral ads.
The powerful super PAC, which has raised more than $90 million since its founding in late 2019, much of which was spent at co-founders’ own firms, soon announced that it had retained the services of an outside law firm to investigate the allegations against Weaver.
On Tuesday, the Lincoln Project announced that the four-month investigation had cleared it of wrongdoing.
“The investigation found no evidence that anyone at the Lincoln Project was aware of any inappropriate communications with any underage individuals at any time prior to the publication of those news reports,” the group said in a statement.
“Additionally, the investigation found no communication nor conduct reported to the Lincoln Project or its leadership involving Mr. Weaver of any employee, contractor, or volunteer that would rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment.”
The statement did note that its own separate organizational review had identified the need to improve operations, such as by formalizing human resources, training staff and leadership, and changing the hiring and promoting process.
While some took the outcome at face value, others raised questions. A few noted that lawyers at the firm that conducted the investigation donated to the Lincoln Project, as the Hill reports.
Many felt that the investigation was tainted by the super PAC’s involvement.
Becker pointed to the statement’s wording, specifically “actionable sexual harassment.”
“My question right now would be this: What is the definition of ‘actionable’ in this statement?” she tweeted.
Justin Miller, news director of the Intelligencer, tweeted, “This Lincoln Project investigation is qualified so much it’s meaningless. Weaver harassed adult men, not just ‘underage’ males. ‘Actionable sexual harassment’ means ‘actionable to bring a legal claim’ only.”
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