The progressive digital community reacted furiously Thursday to news public relations consultant Trevor FitzGibbon was shuttering his firm after being accused of sexual harassment and assault.
Some called it a betrayal of the progressive movement while others rallied online in support of FitzGibbon staff.
Huffington Post, which broke the story, reported there were multiple accusations of harassment by female employees against FitzGibbon, president of FitzGibbon Media, which had a roster of clients ranging from the AFL-CIO and MoveOn.org to NARAL and Rock the Vote. The firm lists 29 employees, 20 of them women, from offices in New York, D.C., San Francisco and London on its website.
In a statement, FitzGibbon said he made the decision to shutter his firm with “regret.”
“The allegations against me are a distraction to the mission at hand. In order to do what is best for the company, I took a leave of absence. However, it is abundantly clear that an irreconcilable difference has arisen between the FitzGibbon team and me. We had no choice but to make the difficult decision to close FitzGibbon Media.”
But Sean Carlson, the firm’s senior digital director, said the firm closed because staff would no longer work there.
Before you hear any different, @fitzgibbonmedia closed because we would no longer follow the leadership of a serial sexual harasser.
— Sean Carlson (@itsthatseanguy) December 17, 2015
Later on Thursday, a group of the firm's former employees released a joint statement on the tumblr of Ginny Simmons, FitzGibbon's vice president of digital, noting that “staffers reported over a half dozen incidents of sexual harassment and at least two involving sexual assault committed by Trevor FitzGibbon against his own employees.
“For decades, Trevor presented himself as a champion of the progressive movement, claiming to support and respect women and feminist issues, from equal pay to reproductive rights, but his actions prove a hypocrisy so great that FitzGibbon Media closed its doors today, as we could no longer continue working under his leadership. We lost our jobs standing up for what’s right, to ensure a safe workplace for all — and while we may have been left without jobs, benefits and long-term healthcare, we have our integrity and each other.
"We are devastated to see our beloved place of work closed at the hands of such a coward and hope to continue working on the social and political issues we love and care so deeply for in the future.”
Clients of the firm reacted quickly.
“We’re shocked and dismayed by the allegations of sexual assault and harassment at FitzGibbon Media," MoveOn.org Civic Action Executive Director Anna Galland and Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn's political action executive director, said in a joint statement. "These allegations must be taken seriously. There is no room for sexual assault or harassment in our movement, in any workplace, or anywhere. Our thoughts are with affected members of the former FitzGibbon team.”
Former client UltraViolet stated: “This is not a distraction from our collective mission but rather foundational to it.
“We deeply regret the impact that this is having on the staff at Fitzgibbon Media and truly value and appreciate the small team that we worked with day in and day out. We hope the former staff will be supported fully for what they have been and are going through.”
Meanwhile, consultants and strategists also tweeted their support for the accusers and former staff.
Just a general reminder that I believe women and trust those who say they have been harmed.
— Dallas Thompson (@dallasbthompson) December 17, 2015
Jen Perrone, COO at Wide Eye Creative, said the firm’s female employees were essentially being fired for speaking out.
How on earth do we expect to create change in this movement when our best people are disrespected, harassed, and gaslit?
— jbperrone (@jenperrone) December 17, 2015
Jill Raney, founder of Practice Makes Progress, wrote: “It is traumatic to lose your progressive job because your ED violated progressive values. It is a violation. I'm so sorry #fitzgibbon staff.”
Donny Bridges, director of civic data at the Center for Technology and Civic Life, tweeted: “If you’re being accused of sexual harassment just fire everyone, burn down the building, inevitably land on your feet. #WhiteDudeTips.”