This post has been updated.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel resigned on Friday after several women accused him of making inappropriate comments and leering at them, creating an uncomfortable work environment.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Bittel apologized to “all who have felt uncomfortable during my tenure.”
Six women who spoke with Politico said that Bittel made suggestive comments, invited women on his private plane, remarked that women were attractive and had stress balls in his office shaped like breasts.
“There was a lot of boob stuff in his office,” one woman who encountered Bittel while working as a fundraiser told Politico. “I was told by other women not to go into his bathroom. I was warned.”
Bittel initially apologized for his behavior in a Thursday statement to Politico before announcing his resignation Friday.
“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said in a statement to Politico. “I have much to learn, but my goal is and has always been to make sure every member of our party has a safe environment in which to succeed. It seems I’ve not been successful in that goal, and I will do better.”
A spokesperson for Bittel did not dispute the women’s accounts and told Politico that the breast-shaped stress toys were a gift “from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday. He keeps them in a drawer with other gag gifts.”
One former party staffer told Politico that Bittel is “creepy.”
“He just leers at you, and stares. I don’t know if you know what that feels like, but he just leers at you. I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” she said.
A former staffer told Politico that she left her work with the party because of Bittel’s “demeaning” and “inappropriate” comments. She also said that Bittel would offer women rides on his private plane.
“The most suggestive thing he does is invite women on his plane or over to his home when his wife is not in town,” she told Politico. “It is not like these things are in the eye of the beholder, the suggestion is very clear … His reputation is very clear, and it has been there since before he was party chairman.”
Bittel is one of several prominent figures recently to face allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. On Thursday, a Los Angeles news anchor accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct, and Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore faces allegations of making inappropriate sexual advances with teenage girls.
Read Politico’s full report here.
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