Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who has been embroiled in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.
The accusations were first reported by ProPublica and Portland Monthly on Wednesday:
“In one case, a potential business partner recalls that Sondland took her to tour a room in a hotel he owns, only to then grab her face and try to kiss her. After she rejected him, Sondland backtracked on investing in her business.
Another woman, a work associate at the time, says Sondland exposed himself to her during a business interaction. She also recalls falling over the back of a couch trying to get away from him. After she made her lack of interest clear, she says Sondland called her, screaming about her job performance.
A third woman, 27 years Sondland’s junior, met him to discuss a potential job. She says he pushed himself against her and kissed her. She shoved him away. She says his job help stopped.”
Sondland, in a statement, said the claims have “no basis in fact.”
“In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances,” Sondland told ProPublica. “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”
The alleged misconduct took place before Sondland began his ambassadorship to the E.U. in 2018. Before then, he had been a successful hotelier and Republican donor.
One of the women who came forward, Nicole Vogel, is the owner of Portland Monthy, which co-published the piece with ProPublica. While she cooperated with the piece as a source, an editor’s note from ProPublic said Vogel was “not involved in editorial decisions.” She said that she had first interacted with Sondland 16 years ago when she was trying to secure funding for her publication. After they had dinner together, where Vogel said Sondland expressed interest in investing, he brought her over to one of his hotels in Portland and showed her one of the rooms. There, she said that Sondland kissed her without her consent.
Another woman, Jana Solis, a hospitality safety engineer for a New York insurance company that specializes in risk management for hotels, had a business lunch with Sondland that she said turned inappropriate.
“He was flirting through the lunch, and ends up just saying, ‘OK, I’ve heard enough,'” Solis told ProPublica. “‘You’re hired. Congratulations. You’re my new hotel chick.'” As they were leaving the restaurant, Solis claims that Sondland slapped her on the butt. (Sondland denies doing so.) Later, the two met up again after Sondland requested she visit his house to view his art collection. “Solis wasn’t trained in art valuations, but she agreed to go to his home, she says, to keep the business account intact,” the article said.
He then directed her to meet up with him in his pool house to view another collection, and Solis said he was naked from the waist down. “He’s like, ‘Well, I just thought we could have some fun, but you know, it’s cool.'” Solis said. Though she rebuffed his advances, she wound up meeting with Sondland again as she was conducting training sessions at a hotel:
“So I’m acting very professional, and I’m going over some of the things I think he needs to deal with [as part of my inspection] and just trying to stay down that road. [He says:] ‘Have a drink. Thanks for all you’ve done this week.'”
Solis remembers sitting on the couch with him, having a glass of wine and hoping as hard as she could — praying — that it would go no further.
“The next thing I know, he’s all over me,” she recalls. “He’s on top of me. He’s kissing me, shoving his tongue down my throat. And I’m trying to wiggle out from under him, and the next thing you know, I’m sort of rising up to get away from him, and I fall over the back of the couch.”
And the third woman, Natalie Sept, said she was working on the campaign for a Portland City Council member when Sondland invited her out to dinner to discuss a potential job offer. But when she cut the evening short because she was feeling uncomfortable, she said he insisted that he walk her to her car and leaned in for a hug.
“So I give him a quick hug and he holds onto my shoulders and looks at me and pushes himself into me and tries to kiss me,” Sept said. She claims she pushed him away, got in her car, and sped off. (“Ambassador Sondland did discuss Ms. Sept’s job prospects with her, but he denies any unwanted touching. He specifically denies attempting to kiss her, along with her claim that she pushed him away,” Sondland’s lawyer said in a statement.)
Jim McCarthy, spokesman for Sondland appeared on CNN Wednesday, saying that he’d been in contact with the reporters for weeks but was not given details about the women’s accounts and only a 24-hour window to respond before the piece was published.
“It was horrendously irresponsible journalism; the fact their own boss is the primary source of the story is appalling and a brazen conflict of interest,” McCarthy added.