Ex-Virginia governor says harassment probe was unfair
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The nation’s first elected African American governor says he is the victim of an “unsound” and “biased” investigation of alleged sexual harassment.
Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder posted a detailed rebuttal Tuesday on his website to an independent investigation commissioned by Virginia Commonwealth University. The investigation concluded Wilder, who teaches at the school, kissed a student six decades his junior without her consent.
Wilder said the investigation ignored key evidence to reach a flawed conclusion. He questioned whether there was an “inherent” racial bias at the school. And he suggested he was the victim of a potential extortion attempt.
“It is not hard to imagine that in this case ... she crafted a story that would allow her to reap a financial reward from a respected, high-profile faculty member who might be more concerned with the appearance of impropriety then with the underlying truth,” Wilder wrote.
In March, The Washington Post reported on allegations made by VCU student Sydney Black against Wilder, who is 66 years older than her. She said he offered to take her on trips and pay for law school and suggested she live at his house in 2017. Black reported the conduct to police and Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was working as an office assistant at the school’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Wilder is a distinguished professor at the school.
Black, who is African American, said she struggled with making a report that could tarnish Wilder’s legacy and attract negative attention. Her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Black said Wilder took her to dinner on her 20th birthday, gave her alcohol and kissed her. She said they went to his condo, where he poured them both champagne, and as they talked, Black said he put his hand on her leg and then kissed her. She said she “immediately jerked away,” asking why he “felt comfortable doing that” and he responded that he “shouldn’t have.”
Three months later, Wilder told Black that funding for her position had lapsed, Black said.
Wilder denied any “non-consensual sexual contact” between him and Black or that he retaliated against her. He said the investigator ignored several contradictory pieces of evidence that disprove Black’s claims. For instance, Wilder said Black called him eight times after the birthday dinner.
“This is hardly the behavior of someone who was the victim of nonconsensual sexual contact,” Wilder wrote.
Wilder also said his use of “baby girl” as a nickname for Black was “never intended as a personal term of endearment.”
The investigation was conducted by an attorney at the request of VCU. The school declined to address Wilder’s specific comments made public Tuesday.
VCU will review Wilder’s statement before making a final determination in the case.
Wilder, a grandson of slaves, won election in Virginia in 1989 to become the nation’s first elected black governor. He later served a term as Richmond’s mayor.