Florida Democratic Party chair resigns after report of 'creepy' behavior toward women

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel has resigned in the wake of a report from POLITICO where six former state party staffers and consultants accused Bittel of creating an unprofessional and hostile workplace for women.

In a statement released on Twitter, Bittel, who previously apologized, says his personal situation has become "distracting" to the party's mission.

"When my personal situation becomes distracting to our core mission of electing Democrats and making Florida better, it is time for me to step aside," he says. "I am proud of what we have built as a party and the wins we have had for Florida families, but I apologize for all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure at the Democratic Party. I am working with our leadership to set the date for our party to elect my successor."

POLITICO reports that six anonymous women alleged Bittel never sexually assaulted or threatened them, but the FDP chairman did make them "feel so uneasy that they didn’t want to be alone with him due to his body language, suggestive remarks and even the breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball he has been known to keep on his desk," the latter which he explained as a gag gift from a female former general counsel. Staffers said Bittel would talk about women in demeaning ways, including topics like "showing their breasts, their age, whether they wanted to ride on his plane, come to his hotel room or if they thought he was attractive." One woman told POLITICO it was the informal policy not to leave female staff alone with Bittel.

"He’s just so fucking creepy," another former female party staffer told Politico. "He just leers at you, and stares. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you. I don’t know how to describe the feeling."

In an apology, Bittel said he had "much to learn."

"Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry," Bittel told POLITICO. "I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better."

After the report was published, all four Democratic candidates for Florida governor called on Bittel to step down.


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