News & Politics

'Atrocious': Women Accuse YAL of Covering Up Sexual Assault

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

This weekend, multiple women have come forward, accusing Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and its president, Cliff Maloney, of covering up sexual harassment and assault at YAL events and at the hands of Maloney himself. YAL has vehemently denied the allegations.

“It’s atrocious that Cliff Maloney has spouted ‘personal responsibility’ rhetoric while flagrantly violating the consent and the trust of his staff,” Addyson Rae Garner, one of the accusers who compiled a list of allegations and launched the hashtag #YALtoo, told PJ Media in a statement.

Garner released a four-page statement detailing at least seven allegations and denouncing YAL for allegedly covering them up. “Rape. Sexual assault. Harassment. I’ve heard it all from girls coming out of YAL. The ones who speak up are brushed off, gaslit, or fired.”

Of Maloney, she said, “He fancies himself the godfather of the liberty movement, but instead of sending people to kneecap the goons who assaulted your daughter, he’ll promote the goons—and maybe help them run for office. Consent is supposed to be a cornerstone of libertarianism, but consent has been violated by staff members of Young Americans for Liberty for years with little to no repercussion.”

Garner gave seven examples:

  1. Cliff Maloney asked my friend to bring him food after a long day at a conference, and once he got her alone, he tried to use his position at YAL to extort her for sex at the expense of her good standing within the organization.
  2. Activists older than me have shared stories of being groped and harassed by a man who still hangs around YAL events. It’s an open secret he’s a creep, but he’s still a friend of the org.
  3. A VP of YAL was seen trying to take a blackout drunk girl up to his hotel room at YALCON. Attendees had to physically stop him from dragging her up to assault her. He’s still a VP.
  4. [The woman who made this allegation has asked that it be removed from coverage. The allegation was published in error.]
  5. Development staff at the office were comfortable openly discussing what female state chairs (typically 18-21-year-old student activists) they wanted to have sex with. The intern who complained about it was ridiculed and gaslit.
  6. Girls I recruited were sexually harassed by YAL campaign coordinators at door knocking deployments. The offender wasn’t fired—just moved to a different role.
  7. I was groped by a fellow state chair. The offender was later endorsed for state office, and YAL sent students to door knock for him. When I messaged Cliff Maloney to follow up on the situation, he blocked me. When my husband (another former activist) tweeted at the organization about it, he was also blocked.

Garner argued that YAL does not “have HR. At least they didn’t in 2019 when I was groped by my coworker there. With no HR to turn to, so I went to the president of the organization. He swore to me that institutional changes were underway and I had nothing to fear regarding the girls I recruited. He would put measures in place to protect women at YAL. … How I wish that were true.”

She claimed that after the meeting, she met with a 20-year-old male staffer who insisted he didn’t “see sexism in the office,” even though he had heard a director shout about women being “f**king sl**s.” She claimed she followed up with leadership regularly, asking what “protocol and safety procedures regarding sexual assault” had been put in place. “Of course, I never got answers on those,” she wrote.

Garner claimed that after she had complained about the groping incident, leadership sent the man who groped her to her campus to help man a table with her at an event. They did so despite “knowing what he did and how I felt about it. The fact he’d violated my body and consent meant nothing to my superiors. I was expendable.”

She claims that she tried “desperately” to fix the problem internally. “I suggested safety and wellness plans. I pitched workshops. I offered to create and step into an HR role to help with future issues. My efforts to protect women and make YAL a safer organization fell on deaf ears.”

Garner insisted that “there are not isolated incidents. These are the result of corrupt leadership and skewed priorities year after year, as well as the unspoken rule that women who speak out can forget about a career in the movement.”

The accuser urged YAL supporters and other libertarians to refuse to support YAL until it undergoes significant reform. “If you truly support liberty, you know this behavior goes against every principle we claim to support. Call for the removal of Cliff Maloney Jr., an independent investigation into sexual abuse, and for YAL to be held accountable,” Garner wrote. “In the liberty movement, we tend to bicker about policy, philosophy, and strategy. But sexual abuse isn’t an issue that’s up for debate.”

Garner presented screenshots of conversations in which a staff member told her YAL has a “third party HR professional.”

Maloney categorically denied the allegations.

“Allegations against me are 100% false. Serious accusations and misconduct will always be addressed at YAL. Character assassinations against a team of liberty advocates who work around the clock for our cause must stop,” the YAL president tweeted.

He also published an official statement from YAL Founder Jeff Frazee, now chairman of YAL’s board of directors.

“Recent social media posts attacking YAL, the organization I started, and love, have been brought to my attention. While I have great reluctance to address condential HR matters publicly, I’d like to share that YAL takes any accusation of misconduct seriously,” Frazee insisted.

“YAL prides itself on having an HR process that is easily accessible to our employees and student volunteers,” Frazee claimed. “Every concern that is brought to our attention regarding potential misconduct is investigated and appropriate steps are taken in response. We urge anyone to come to us directly regarding any evidence of bad actors, and I would expect YAL to do the right thing, as it always has, and under my leadership, always will.”

“Unfortunately, social media often clouds the truth, so I encourage anyone with concerns to use appropriate channels to raise concerns, rather than attempt to malign the organization, its people, and principles. It’s important we respect the rights of all people and address serious matters appropriately,” the board chairman concluded.

Garner publicly responded to the statement, claiming that Frazee’s words amount to a declaration “that my story and the dozens of stories of sexual misconduct shared with them didn’t matter. They showed us who they were and where their priorities were.”

“The statement put out by Cliff and YAL does much more damage to their cause than good by dehumanizing the many victims speaking up– calling them ‘social media,'” Garner told PJ Media.  “It’s telling that an organization known to support whistleblowers refuses to acknowledge their own.”

Julie Borowski, an influential libertarian YouTuber and author, responded to Maloney’s denial by backing up the allegations.

“I looked into this. Your sexually predatory behavior has been an open secret for a long time. *Multiple* people have reported you using proper internal channels. It’s well-documented. The board has continuously not held you accountable- because you’re ‘good at your job,'” Borowski tweeted with the hasthag #YALtoo.

“Anyone who has followed me for the past decade can attest I am not one for stirring up drama. I don’t want to be involved. But after reading that tone-deaf response, I feel a moral duty to speak up. We hold elected reps accountable. We must hold liberty reps accountable, too,” she added.

Borowski concluded by arguing that “the victims are NOT the ones hurting the organization. They wanted this handled internally in private- and it should have been. Cliff’s actions are to blame for hurting the organization. He has failed to live up to the same principles that they espouse.”

Libertarians like Borowski truly advocate for small government and would not wish to compromise the movement.

Taylor Hall, a former YAL staffer, identified herself as the woman in Garner’s first allegation. She alleged that Maloney tried to extort her into having sex with him in 2017. She refused, but she heard stories of other women Maloney allegedly propositioned afterward. She claims to have reported the incident to a vice president and Frazee and to have continued working for YAL, hoping the organization would address it.

After YAL failed to take appropriate action, the situation only got worse, Hall said. “It is all crumbling down now. With more girls. More accusations. Pending lawsuits. And it will be a much harder fall than I had presented to them years ago,” she lamented. “All I wanted was to stay and work at an organization I loved so much, but they made it immensely clear who was more useful to them and who was welcome. It wasn’t me.”

PJ Media reached out to YAL for a further statement responding to Garner. YAL did not respond by press time.

As a fan and ally of the liberty movement, I find these allegations extremely troubling. Sexual assault is heinous, especially when men in power use that power to extort women into sexual favors. I have loudly denounced secretive liberal organizations facing such allegations and conservatives cannot show favoritism toward our own.

YAL and Maloney need to address these specific allegations more seriously and explain their HR practices. They are innocent until proven guilty, but these allegations carry a great deal of weight.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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