Diego Morales denied allegations of sexual misconduct Friday following a report from an Indianapolis journalist.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, who runs the website IndyPolitics.org, published the allegations against the Republican candidate for Indiana Secretary of State in his newsletter “The Cheat Sheet.” He did not include the women’s names, instead referring to them as Woman No. 1 and Woman No. 2 “out of concern for their families and fear of political retribution.”
The women were 20 and 22 years old at the time, and both said Morales made unwanted advances, forcibly kissing them during encounters both initially thought were friendly.
Woman No. 1 met Morales during a campaign in 2007. The next year, she said she met him at Starbucks to receive a gift from a congressman but Morales told her he had forgotten the gift at home and they went to his house to pick it up. She said nothing about it appeared strange at first.
After giving her the gift, she said, Morales kissed her. She immediately backed up and told Morales she had a boyfriend, but he “did not take no for an answer.”
When she attempted to leave and walked toward the door, he followed and “pinned” her against the wall.
“He grabbed both of my arms by my wrists and he held them behind my back,” she said in the newsletter. “I mean, he (was) as close to me as he could possibly get. He had me pinned there. And he kept trying to kiss me.”
She was eventually able to push him away, but realized she left some belongings in his car. After that, he again grabbed her hand and began to kiss it.
She described herself as a “lifelong Republican” who has worked for GOP candidates at every level of government. She had “never, ever” supported a Democrat before deciding to volunteer with Morales’ Democratic opponent, Destiny Wells.
“This is not political for me. This is personal,” she said. “I don’t want someone like this being in a position of power where he can do this to other women.”
Woman No. 2 worked with Morales at the Secretary of State’s office under Todd Rokita in 2009. She was new to Indianapolis when Morales invited her to dinner. He suggested they have casual sex, she said, which made her uncomfortable.
She asked Morales to drive her home. Once they arrived at her apartment, she said, he insisted he needed to use the restroom in her house despite her saying no “two or three times.”
“He came out of the bathroom and went to hug me goodbye, which I did not reciprocate, and he started kissing me and just kept kissing me,” she said. “He was holding my arms down, and I think in his head it was one of those situations where I was saying no, but meant yes.”
She pushed him away “pretty forcefully” and Morales left, but in the following weeks at work he continued to suggest she “give him a chance.” She also said he attempted to manipulate her, including withholding things she needed for work until she was nice to him.
After the newsletter was published Friday morning, Morales released a statement on the allegations. He said the claims are false, and he “unequivocally” denies them.
“The women, who will not reveal their identity, cannot corroborate their stories,” Morales said. “They have neither documentation nor sources to substantiate their defaming comments.”
He said the report is “clearly politically motivated” because of its timing and because one woman volunteered for Wells while the other, in her own words, is a “big supporter” of Wells.
Morales also called attention to part of The Cheat Sheet’s disclaimer, which describes the newsletter as “a compilation of pure gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo.”
“I am appalled to be included in this publication and was not provided an opportunity to respond to these falsehoods before they were printed,” Morales said. “These anonymous claims do not dignify any further response.”
Wells and Libertarian candidate Jeff Maurer also released statements Friday.
Maurer called the allegations “very serious” and said they “speak to the moral fitness” of Morales.
“He should come forward in a public debate to answer questions about these allegations,” Maurer said.
Morales’ “victims need to be heard and believed,” Wells said, adding she doesn’t want the women’s “personal sacrifice to be for naught.”
“While this race has been focused on safeguarding our right to vote, we too must safeguard a woman’s right to exist in the workplace free of sexual harassment and assault,” Wells said. “For weeks we have seen mounting evidence that Diego will say and do anything to get what he wants – as Hoosiers, I know this is not in line with our values – we have had enough.”