The US ambassador to the European Union has denied all allegations, but there is a consistent pattern of behavior that demonstrates the truth in these women's stories.
Trigger warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual misconduct.
Three women have come forward recalling uncomfortable experiences of sexual misconduct they shared with Gordon Sondland prior to him becoming the United States ambassador to the European Union. In all three cases, Sondland retaliated against them professionally, nonprofit newsroom ProPublica reports. The cases span a seven-year period, with the last case ending less than ten years ago. The ambassador, much like his former pal United States President Donald Trump, denies the allegations of sexual assault. It is unclear what these allegations will mean for the ongoing impeachment case against the President at this crucial stage. Nonetheless, it is important that Sondland is brought to justice.
In the first case, potential business partner Nicole Vogel recalls what it was like to raise capital to launch her magazine Portland Monthly. She encountered Sondland 16 years ago at a time when he was an influential power player in Portland. He owned—and still owns—multiple hotels under his umbrella company Provenance Hotel Group. "There were a lot of indecent proposals when I was raising capital, but none as brazen as his," she told ProPublica. "I have nothing to say about what he did or didn’t do [involving Ukraine]. But if people are asking what his moral character is, I have one more piece of evidence for them." At a dinner meeting, Sondland had told her he would personally invest in her magazine, before trying to kiss her without her consent. After Vogel denied another similar advance, she received an email in which he stated, "After further reflection on this opportunity, I have come to the definite conclusion that this will be a ‘labor of love’ investment, at least at the beginning. In checking further, I have determined that the Lucia cannot participate under your very creative structure." His lawyer argues, "A decision not to invest cannot fairly be characterized as retaliation."
Jana Solis is the second victim to come forward with her story. She met Sondland in 2008 when she worked as a hospitality safety engineer for New York City-based insurance company Marsh & McLennan. A colleague asked her to take a meeting with him. "He was flirting through the lunch, and ends up just saying, ‘OK, I’ve heard enough," Solis stated. "‘You’re hired. Congratulations. You’re my new hotel chick.’" On the way out, he "slap[ped] [her] on the ass and said, ‘I look forward to working with you.’” There were multiple other instances of sexual misconduct throughout her training period with his company. On the last day of her training, she was requested to evaluate his penthouse. She remembered, "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.’ 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." Following the incident, Sondland called her screaming while she was working late at the office one day. She soon left the account.
The final case of sexual misconduct happened to Natalie Sept. She moved to Portland in 2008 and began working for Portland City Council member Nick Fish, eventually becoming his campaign manager. Sept introduced him to Sondland, who invited her to dinner in order to discuss a potential job at the film office. After dinner, Sept excused herself to use the washroom. When she came back, he made an unwelcome advance. She recalled, "He says, ‘Come sit next to me.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my god, this isn’t good.’ So I said, ‘Oh, I forgot, I have to go home.’" After apologizing for cutting the evening short, she allowed him to walk her to her car so she wouldn't cause a scene. Sondland, again, 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 revealed. She never heard from him again.
Sondland, of course, vehemently denied all three allegations. He affirmed in a statement, "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. 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." But there is clearly a pattern here. Therefore, these women have come forward in order to save others from facing the same harm. Solis stated, "I would hate to see anybody else go through it. This runs so far beyond just a little groping. It affects how I do business. And who I can do business with. [If talking] is the right thing to do, then that’s what I’m going to do." Hopefully, should there be other survivors, these women's stories will persuade them to come forward too. Hopefully, swift justice will be served.