The campaign of Shahid Buttar, the attorney hoping to unseat Rep. Nancy Pelosi from the left, is mired in a chaotic stretch, beset by allegations of sexual harassment from an acquaintance and of misogyny by numerous former campaign staffers.
On Tuesday, East Coast comedian Elizabeth Croydon publicly accused Buttar of ongoing and persistent sexual harassment starting in the early 2000s; she said Buttar incessantly pressed her for sex against her wishes and, on at least one occasion, made unwelcome physical contact with her.
Croydon also alleges that in the early 2010s, Buttar mocked and belittled her regarding her decision to remain celibate — despite being told, repeatedly, this was a method of coping with past sexual assaults.
“I’m not coming out because he’s making a name for himself. I’m coming out because he’s seeking a high seat of power,” Croydon told Mission Local. “And he needs to be completely trustworthy. And predators aren’t trustworthy. I wish I had come out earlier.”
Also this week, the Democratic Socialists of America’s San Francisco chapter began the process of potentially rescinding its endorsement of Buttar. The resolution cites Croydon’s allegations — but doesn’t end there. One of its five clauses reads:
WHEREAS Shahid Buttar mismanaged his campaign by treating his campaign team, specifically the women, in a belittling, demeaning, hyper controlling and abusive manner. The Shahid Buttar campaign has had massive turnover for months because of Shahid’s behavior with many key staff positions still not filled.
The resolution was signed by more than 40 DSA members, including state senate candidate Jackie Fielder and Supervisor Dean Preston.
In both a Twitter chain and in an interview with Mission Local, Buttar denied Croydon’s allegations categorically.
“I feel very strongly that survivors need to be heard. I’m grateful that all the facts may come out,” he said. “She describes a communal and group house I had in D.C. in 2005 to 2008. We were both performers in a group called D.C. Guerilla Poetry Insurgency. This was a place we frequently held events. That much is true. The rest is not.”
The candidate also denied fostering a misogynistic, toxic workplace atmosphere. Rather, he cited “performance challenges” from “a number of staff: Some women, some men.”
A former acquaintance recently provided a statement on Twitter regarding sexual harassment.
These claims are false.
Every survivor must be heard, and I hope to be allowed the same opportunity to be heard as well. /1
— 🌹Shahid Buttar for Congress (@ShahidForChange) July 21, 2020
But this did not ring true to a goodly number of former Buttar staffers. None made claims akin to Croydon’s, but did object to Buttar’s allegedly dismissive and belittling attitude toward female employees. Departed staffers also accused Buttar of failing to put in the hard work necessary in an uphill campaign while paying himself $8,335 a month from campaign funds — more than $52,000 since January.
Buttar defended drawing a salary from campaign funds — which is legal. “Not everyone can be an oligarch like Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “I made more money in my first year out of law school.”
This did not resonate with former staffers.
“I strongly believed, and still believe, in his policy positions. But I do not have faith in Shahid as a leader,” said former field organizer Raya Steier. “He needs to work on his attitudes with women. Trying to imply these people had performance issues? That’s not the case at all: He had performance issues.”
Former staffers said Buttar’s campaign staff has already completely turned over twice, with more than half a dozen employees or contractors quitting at around the same time in April or May.
“As a male staffer, Shahid never did anything terrible to me. But women staffers? A completely different picture,” said Patrick Cochran, Buttar’s former volunteer coordinator.
Cochran recalls his female colleagues needing to gather “three or four men” to have their ideas taken seriously by the candidate.
William Fitzgerald, who handled PR for Buttar, shared similar memories: “It felt to me, as a white guy, he listened to me a lot more than the women members of his team,” said Fitzgerald, a principal at The Worker Agency.
“It was obvious and he would often speak down to and be extremely rude to women. And in front of lots of people. And it was not a one-off and not to just one woman.”
Fitzgerald says he broke ties with the campaign in April. “We wanted to see him through the primary.”
Buttar took 13 percent of the vote in that March primary, coming a distant second to the incumbent Pelosi’s 74 percent — but earning a rematch in November’s general election.
Multiple former campaign staffers declined interviews, including former campaign manager Jasper Wilde and finance director Emily Jones, citing non-disparagement clauses in their contracts. Buttar denied the existence of the NDAs.
Croydon, a longtime comic and actress, said she’s spent decades backstage with some of the nation’s raunchiest and most belligerent comedians. None of them, she says, felt the need to probe and belittle her sexual history as she alleges Buttar did.
“It was humiliating and degrading and made me re-live other incidents,” she says. “I am speaking out because I don’t believe he is trustworthy enough to hold elected office. The Left can do better.”
Buttar categorically denied all the allegations made in recent days, but was especially adamant that he never mocked Croydon for choosing to remain celibate following sexual assaults.
“That is the last thing I of all people would ever do,” he said. “The most painful thing about reading this story is it is so wildly inconsistent with who I am.”