Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) once ate a salad with her comb and ordered an aide to clean it after the staffer did not get her a fork.
The 2008 story during a trip the senator took to South Carolina is used as the lead anecdote in a blistering new story from The New York Times with the headline “How Amy Klobuchar Treats Her Staff.”
The story is based on interviews with more than two-dozen former staffers to Klobuchar, according to the news outlet, and includes several details about the demands she placed on her staff.
It reports that many former aides described her treatment as “dehumanizing.”
In the 2008 incident, the Times reported that an aide had purchased a salad for Klobuchar while bringing her bags through an airport. But the aide “fumbled” the plastic utensils and was “berated” after explaining the problem to Klobuchar.
Klobuchar then took a comb from her bag to eat the salad, before telling the staffer to “clean it,” according to the report.
Sources to the Times described the incident as emblematic of what it is like to work for Klobuchar, whose demands could be over the top and even dehumanizing.
Klobuchar campaign spokeswoman Carlie Waibel pushed back on the Times story in a statement.
“The senator has repeatedly acknowledged that she can be tough and push people hard,” Waibel said. “But these anonymous stories — some of which are just plain ridiculous — do not overshadow the countless experiences of people on the senator’s team who she has been so proud to work with.”
Klobuchar has had to deal with stories about her treatment of staff ever since she announced her presidential bid, which has brought more scrutiny of her behavior.
The stories threaten to damage Klobuchar’s campaign as it gets off the ground. The Minnesotan is one of five senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Klobuchar has acknowledged that she can be “tough” on staff, saying at a CNN town hall this month that she has “high expectations.”
“Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes,” she said. “Do I ask too much of my staff sometimes? Yes.”
But her supporters have also suggested the stories about her underscore an unfair standard women face in Washington and question why the behavior of male bosses doesn’t come under similar scrutiny.
Critics of Klobuchar, for their part, argue sexism has nothing to do with it and that Klobuchar’s treatment is simply beyond the pale.
Some former aides stood by the senator in interviews with the Times, saying that while Klobuchar was a tough boss, she often expressed regret about her behavior. But most, nearly all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, described incidents of humiliation, impatience and insult while working for Klobuchar.
“In 20 years in politics I have never seen worse prep,” she wrote in one email.
One former aide also told the paper that Klobuchar’s criticism was a “rite of passage” in her office, for instance telling staff: “This is the worst press staff I ever had.”
The story also reported that Klobuchar would seek to complicate job opportunities for staffers who sought to move on from the office, and that Klobuchar blamed her staff for preventing her from having a greater standing in Washington.