Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat, has apologized for how she handled harassment claims against a former top aide made in 2016 by a former female staff member, and is now facing calls to resign.
Esty issued a statement on Twitter Thursday evening saying she was "horrified and angry" to learn of the harassment claims against her former chief of staff Tony Baker, and admitted she "failed to protect" the female staffer who came forward with the accusations, which included death threats and physical violence according to the Connecticut Post, which first reported the news.
Esty, now in her third term in Congress, did not immediately remove Baker from her staff for several months after the allegations surfaced against him, instead demanding he get counseling and ordered an internal review process to "investigate" the conduct in her office.
Andrew Ricci, a spokesperson for Esty's former chief of staff, denies that Baker ever physically harmed the staffer, and confirms that he recently left his job as the Ohio Director for the Sandy Hook Promise, a gun violence prevention advocacy group. Esty told the Washington Post that she wrote Baker a letter of recommendation for the job with the Sandy Hook Promise, a decision she now says was a mistake.
In a statement provided to ABC News, Baker said he appreciated that Esty encouraged him to seek counseling and treatment for alcoholism.
"In 2016, Elizabeth was the only person who stopped to ask me how I was doing and urged me to get help beyond just becoming sober. I immediately sought comprehensive help, which has been invaluable in my life of recovery. I have a lot of respect for Anna and I agree that stories like hers need to be told," Baker wrote, referring to Anna Kain, the former Esty staffer that made the claims against him.
Ricci confirmed to ABC News that Baker has been undergoing treatment for alcoholism for nearly two years, and in that time has undergone counseling for anger management.
Stephanie Morris, a spokeswoman for the Sandy Hook Promise, also confirmed to ABC News that Baker is no longer employed by the group. Morris declined to expand on the circumstances of Baker's departure.
In the wake of the revelations, the Hartford Courant newspaper has called on Esty to resign her seat in Congress, calling her handling of the situation "appalling."
"Ms. Esty had every opportunity — and every responsibility — to at least suspend Mr. Baker on the spot and hold him accountable for his behavior. Instead, she went with the script that has cloaked sexual assault and harassment in Congress for decades. She is complicit," an editorial published by the paper Friday read.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP's campaign arm, also called on Esty to resign.
"Elizabeth Esty orchestrated one of the most disturbing Washington cover-ups in recent memory. There is no place for someone who protects abusers in Congress, and she should resign immediately," a statement from the NRCC provided to ABC News read.
"I am sorry that I hurt her, her friends, family, and co-workers, and many of my present and former staffers," Esty wrote.
Esty also praised her former staffer who came forward, especially amid the ongoing #MeToo movement, during which instances of harassment, misconduct, and violence against women have been exposed, including by current and former members of Congress.
"I’m inspired by the courage this young woman is demonstrating by speaking up – in the one company town of DC – to say MeToo," Esty wrote.
Esty says she removed Baker from her staff after learning that the claims against him were not an "isolated incident" and that he had "victimized" multiple female members of her staff. Esty then "hired a new chief of staff, made changes to senior staff, changed employment policy, and instituted mandatory harassment trainings," according to her statement.
In her statement on the incident, Esty now says that changes need to be made in Congress when it comes to how these incidents are handled and addressed.
"I know that Survivors come first – we need to believe them and support them. And we need to include survivors and allies alike in the conversation about how to implement the changes necessary both in Congress and more broadly to prevent this from happening again," Esty wrote.
"I've asked myself over and over again, how did I not see this? How could I have let down so many people?" Esty wrote, "I know firsthand that we need stronger workplace protections, and to provide employees with a platform to raise concerns. But that's not enough. Those concerns must be listened to. And people in power must take action. Now that I know, I must do better. We all must do better."
The revelations come during a session of Congress that has already seen multiple members resign over allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. all resigned their seats last year after allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct surfaced against them.
The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. did not respond to a request for comment on the situation regarding Rep. Esty when asked by ABC News.