While most of the nation was embracing #metoo, John Bel was practicing #mefirst.
Just years after several women courageously reported Johnny Anderson for sexual abuse and harassment, Governor John Bel Edwards hired him to a position of immense power in his administration. Under Edwards’ regime, Anderson struck again, sexually harassing, abusing and assaulting a female employee for more than two years.
Former employee of the Office of the Governor Juanita W. says Edwards put her in harm’s way by hiring Anderson and also abandoning her when she blew the whistle on Anderson’s unwanted sexual advances.
Anderson, Edwards’ former Deputy Chief of Staff of Programs and Planning, was credibly accused of sexual harassment by six women in his previous high-ranking position at Southern University under Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administration. The latest victim, Juanita, served the state as executive director of the State Interagency Coordinated Council. The harassment by Anderson, her direct superior, began during her second interview for the job. Juanita shares her story in “My Chance,” a statewide television ad detailing Juanita’s abuse at the hands of Anderson, as well as the cover-up that followed.
The governor has falsely claimed that Anderson was exonerated despite a federal judge’s opinion that the victims’ claims had merit and were not contradicted. Juanita endured years of sexual harassment from Anderson, including demands of sexual favors from Anderson and sexually explicit text messages.
“I was harassed, groped and assaulted by Edwards’ Deputy Chief of Staff. I was humiliated,” said Juanita. “After two years of suffering, I came forward, and then I was the one who was unemployed. The governor betrayed me and showed that instead of putting women first, he put politics first and tried to hide this scandal that he created by hiring Anderson in the first place.”
“Like many women, I was desperate to take care of my family, and I was the sole support for my aging parents and teenage daughter,” Juanita said of her decision to keep silent about her abuse at the hands of Anderson. “My family relied on my health insurance, and I was afraid to lose it. I was vulnerable and quiet for too long. My story deserves to be told.”
After two years of abuse and harassment by Anderson, Juanita spoke up and subsequently lost her job. Despite repeated claims by Edwards that he was unaware of Anderson’s highly publicized sexual harassment scandals prior to hiring, Juanita says she believes he knew and chose to hire him anyway. Juanita said Gov. Edwards’ disregard for women and her desire for the full truth to come out drove her to tell her story in the new ad.
“The governor doesn’t listen to women. I was abused, intimidated and forced to resign, yet I never received an apology from him,” Juanita said. “I now know there are many other women like me, who spoke up about being harassed and attacked but were ignored. I took the abuse, because it was clear my abuser held all the power, but now, it’s time to tell my story.”
Not only did Edwards put victims like Juanita back in harm’s way by hiring Anderson to serve in a position of power within his administration, he also used taxpayer funds to pay for the victim settlements.
The governor likes to tout the phrase, “people over politics,” but it would appear he doesn’t mean it when it comes to women like Juanita. Now, she’s speaking out to put public pressure on the administration to do more to address sexual misconduct at the highest levels of state government going forward.
Tell the governor victims deserve a voice, call 225-342-7015.