Portland City Council candidate Jo Ann Hardesty has apologized for bringing a man who sexually harassed her opponent, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, to a candidate forum last night.
In a morning press release, Smith's campaign shared a video of Hardesty dancing the Electric Slide with Baruti Artharee—a one-time staffer for former Mayor Charlie Hales—during an "Arts and Culture Forum" at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) headquarters. The video was taken during a segment where the candidates were asked to share a piece of art that moved them. Smith read a poem from Maya Angelou; Hardesty danced.
Artharee was temporarily suspended by Hales in 2013 after he made sexually suggestive comments when introducing Smith at a public event.
"Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith. Mmm, mmm, mmm, she looks good tonight," Artharee said at the time, while making a "suggestive motion" with his hips.
Today's press release, sent by Smith's campaign manager Elizabeth Mazzara Myers, inaccurately says Artharee "lost his job" in Hales' office because of this incident. Artharee resigned from his position four months after making this statements.
"The art performance by Hardesty and Mr. Baruti, without a doubt, was intended to embarrass Loretta at best, and re-victimizing her at worst," Myers writes.
Smith said that at last night's event, Artharee "swung his hips the same way he had when he had made the suggestive and offensive remarks."
"I feel violated all over again," Smith's quoted saying in the press release.
Hardesty responded to this accusation in a statement emailed to the Mercury:
Many in our community are collectively reliving traumas experienced by sexual assault. In yesterday's forum, Commissioner Smith experienced trauma in a triggering moment during the event. I acknowledge that harm, and my part in creating the situation that provoked it.
I apologize for creating a painful and uncomfortable situation for her, which regardless of my intention to build community in the moment, was the impact. I send good thoughts to Commissioner Smith and all women in their healing processes. Regardless of party or the fact that we are running against each other, we must believe and support all women.