CW: sexual harassment, sexual assault
#MeToo advocate and California assemblyperson Cristina Garcia PO ’99 was scheduled to speak at Pomona College Friday, but her talk has been postponed following allegations that she harassed and groped a staffer and a lobbyist published by Politico Thursday evening.
Garcia, who was featured as one of Time Magazine’s “Silence Breakers” in the Person of the Year edition, is currently under investigation by the state legislature, Politico reports.
Pomona politics associate professor Amanda Hollis-Brusky announced the rescheduling on the department’s Facebook page shortly after the allegations surfaced.
“The news was deeply upsetting to hear, because Cristina Garcia was definitely put up on a pedestal by the politics department as a shining example of a politics major using her knowledge and education for activism and good,” Michelle Fowler PO ’19 said.
The flyer for the scheduled talk described Garcia as “a leading voice for women’s issues, government transparency, and environmental justice.”
Garcia has been accused of groping by two separate individuals, one of whom is Daniel Fierro, a former staffer for assemblyperson Ian Calderon. Fierro claims Garcia assaulted him in 2014.
Fierro did not report the incident at the time, but told his former boss in January after being inspired by the #MeToo movement, Politico reported. The matter was referred to the Assembly Rules Committee, which is investigating the allegations.
Garcia said she would comply with the investigation.
“Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously,” she said in a statement Thursday. “I have zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.”
Fierro said he fears that his accusation will harm the #MeToo movement since Garcia is so closely associated with it, but decided to speak out since her actions are contrary to the movement’s cause.
“I have female colleagues who have been through way worse than me,” Fierro told Time Magazine. “That conversation [about sexual assault] needs to be had. … If their stories are being taken less seriously by people in the district because the messenger is not credible, that's a problem.”
A Sacramento lobbyist who spoke to Politico on condition of anonymity also said that Garcia verbally harassed him and attempted to grope him at a fundraiser in 2017.
“What is even more upsetting is the ramifications … for the entire #MeToo movement,” Fowler said. “[Garcia’s actions] could easily … be used by right-wing media to support their argument that #MeToo leaders and supporters are just a bunch of misandrists.”