MIAMI BEACH — It seems that 2017 will go down as the year that men couldn’t keep it in their pants. Following in the footsteps of Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and Mark Halperin, a candidate for the Miami Beach Commission, Rafael Velasquez, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by three women.
“I was ‘Harvey Weinsteined’ by Rafael Velasquez, the candidate I have been supporting and raising money for in the Miami Beach commission race,” said Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
Velasquez, who apparently didn’t get the memo stating that women have no interest in seeing random men’s junk, allegedly flashed Rosen Gonzalez while sitting in her car on October 18 after they had grabbed dinner at Cafe Avanti.
“He had started to say that he thought that I was his soulmate, and I said, ‘Please, can we stay focused on the campaign?'” Rosen Gonzalez said. “By the time we got into the car, he had become abusive. He exposed himself. He was trying to, like, force my hand on him, and it was too much.”
“I screamed, ‘Put it away!’” she added. “And then once I processed what happened, I just thought, ‘What am I supposed to do? I put so much of my political capital into this.’ Why did not one speak up about Bill Cosby, or why did women allow Harvey Weinstein to get away with it? Because you just want to move along with the process.”
Velasquez attempted to defend himself in a Facebook post yesterday, but the cat was out of the bag.
“This morning, I woke up to an insane attack by someone I considered to be a friend, someone I respected and someone I know many of you respect,” he wrote, alleging that Rosen Gonzalez’s claim was a “vile and disgusting” attempt by his opponent, Mark Samuelian, to smear him.
“I’m not sure what the commissioner expects to get from stabbing me in the back like this — an appearance on MSNBC? A payoff from one of Samuelian’s PACs? Maybe help from Samuelian’s big establishment allies in fundraising for her congressional campaign?” Velasquez added. “What I do know is this. I would never, ever, in a million years behave in the way the commissioner describes it. You know it, I know it and she knows it.”
Samuelian’s spokesman, Christian Ulvert, denies any involvement.
“Mr. Velasquez’s effort to deflect responsibility by bringing his opponent into this is ludicrous and speaks more to his flawed character,” he said.
The candidate for commissioner also called into question Rosen Gonzalez’s timeline of the events.
“Moreover, her story just doesn’t make sense and is a twisted attempt to accuse me of something horrible the one time we were alone together this month,” he wrote. “Per the commissioner’s story, after I made her feel unsafe and acted in a highly inappropriate way, she then proceeded not only to continue supporting me for almost two weeks, and helping me raise money, but also had me at her table for dinner several times with her and her daughters. Does that sound like the way you would act with someone that acted inappropriately with you?”
Velasquez joins a growing list of men being outed for using their position of power to act in a sexually inappropriate manner.
“I feel sorry for Kristen that she has allowed herself to be swallowed up by this City Hall insider’s game, by the need for attention and by the ambition for higher office,” Velasquez insisted. “So, you might be wondering, what exactly is going on? It’s simple. Mark Samuelian is losing and he knows it.”
Velasquez’s claims of innocence have been disputed by a second woman, Frances Alban of Alban Communications, who alleges that the candidate grabbed her butt during a photo op and then sent her a text message saying that she “felt good.” She has since shared screenshots of the messages with the press.
“When I saw Kristen’s accusations today, I was compelled to share my story too,” Alban said. “I know there is power in numbers. I have nothing to gain from this. I am not politically affiliated with this race in any way, not even a Miami Beach resident.”
After the Alban accusation, Velasquez attempted to justify his behavior.
“No, no, she looked good,” he said. “You know, it was feeling good to see her again.”
A third woman, Roxanna Ayers, has also come forward to dispute Velasquez’s claims of innocence, stating that the candidate had acted improperly with her.
“We were never alone, but we would be in these situations where he would make comments to me on my appearance, saying, ‘Oh, you look sexy today,’” Ayers said. “Just inappropriate.”
“He kept commenting on my appearance and just being very pervy. I kept trying to steer it back to the reason why I was there,” she added. “At the end of the lunch, when we were waiting for the check to arrive, he very aggressively reaches over and pinches my cheek and says, ‘You’re so adorable, you should come work for my campaign.’ To have a man do that to me like I was a 10-year-old girl. I couldn’t believe it.”
Velasquez maintains that he was just complimenting Ayers, though he does admit to perhaps engaging in lecherous behavior in the past.
“I mean, I might have been drunk once and said some things, but nothing else,” he stated. “There was an incident at a birthday party where I had too much to drink and made some comments, but I didn’t do anything.”
Seems like the case of the boy who cried “not wolf” one too many times.