A number of high-profile politicians have found themselves embroiled in sexual misconduct scandals over the past several years, but one case from 2018 has not received a great deal of media attention.
According to Fox News, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham agreed to pay roughly $62,500 to a former campaign spokesman for an incident in which she allegedly grabbed his crotch.
“Slap and grab”
James Hallinan has reportedly received payments from the governor as a settlement for the incident he claimed occurred during a meeting more than two years ago.
The accuser made his explosive allegations against Grisham in the aftermath of a meeting at the home of New Mexico state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, a Democrat. He claimed the governor spilled water on his lap and “touched his genitals,” as reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Hallinan later described the encounter as a “slap and grab,” insisting that the memory of the alleged incident haunted him long after it was over.
He has since posted tweets on the topic on several occasions, causing an uproar in response to his assertion in December 2019 that the governor “is not above the law for her sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!),” going on to promise that he would reveal more details.
The statement stirred up a flurry of speculation, during which Hallinan said he would be staying in an undisclosed location until the media frenzy died down. At the time, he said he feared for his safety and insisted that Grisham had a long history of “verbally abusing” him.
“To avoid the continuing distraction”
He went on to take legal action against Grisham, who has continued to deny all allegations of wrongdoing.
Spokesman Jared Leopold told local reporters that the governor and her campaign “strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims, including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign.”
The settlement both sides reached was reportedly paid out over a series of installments in a move Grisham apparently believed would allow her to focus on her job during the ensuing public health crisis.
“They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic,” Leopold said.
Republican Governors Association spokesman Will Reinart was among the public figures who slammed the governor, suggesting that the size of the settlement indicates “that there must be some truth to the story, and Governor Lujan Grisham should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.”