| This article is part of a series about|
|Prime Minister of Sierra
K.S. Senator from San Joaquin
In September 2017, the Porciúncula Times and Newstar reported several accusations made by both women and men of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by Prime Minister Daniel McComb. The dates of alleged incidents ranged from 1986 (during his early career as an attorney) to 2015 (while he was still senator). The majority of claimants were former associates and staffers who had worked with Daniel McComb. Initially, the Getty House denied all of the allegations and dismissed them as "ludicrous distractions", while McComb himself stated that the media was "unfairly attempting to usurp me with fake news". On October 3, Grands Ballons Observer released a recording and accompanying article online about then-Senator McComb and political pundit James Gove, in a private conversation dated back in 2011. In the conversation, Gove asked McComb if he had any recent sexual encounters, to which McComb replied, "I took an aide back to the hotel, but not without a fight and a couple of drinks...I had to shut her up too you know." This recording provided credibility to alleged victims' claims made in the weeks prior as additional claims surfaced. The uncovering of the sex abuse scandal has been dubbed Aidegate, based on McComb's soundbite, and has been declared one of the most controversial events in Sierran history.
Following this publication and the new wave of allegations, House Democratic-Republicans called for a cross-bench vote with McComb's Royalists on a motion of no confidence and a formal investigation by the Senate of the allegations. McComb subsequently resigned, leaving his deputy, Leslie Steele, as the Acting Prime Minister. Queen Angelina II announced that she would not grant any pardons or commutation to McComb should he be indicted and convicted of any crimes associated with the allegations. After Steele announced no plans to run or remain as prime minister, the Royalists called for a leadership election to choose the new leader of the party (and thus the new prime minister). Nemesis Heartwell, a fellow former senator from McComb's constituency in San Joaquin and his Minister of Finance, was elected and subsequently appointed as Steele's successor on October 18.
After McComb's resignation, he underwent a series of investigations from the Senate with regards to the alleged sexual misconduct incidents he conducted during his tenure in various offices. Meanwhile, the Porciúncula Police Department and the Bernheim Police Department announced on October 14 that they would review the allegations made against McComb. While the majority of allegations were sexual harassment cases, there was one case of statutory rape and two cases of sexual battery.
Daniel McComb was the Prime Minister of Sierra and was elected on December 16, 2016. He ran as the Royalist candidate in the 2016 general election, which had been postponed from its original date on October 16 due to the assassination of Democratic-Republican Prime Minister Steven Hong. Following Hong's death and the civil unrest in the Styxie, McComb's popularity surged due to his hardline approach against radical republicanism and likability among both conservatives and moderates. He ran against Democratic-Republican challenger Terry Scott, who ran unopposed within his party, including incumbent Prime Minister Preston Bolivar, who was Hong's deputy prior to Hong's death.
Prior to McComb's premiership, he was originally a member of the San Joaquin House of Assembly, where he served as its speaker from 1998 to 2004. He was later elected as a senator from San Joaquin in 2004 where he held onto the office for 12 years. McComb was a prominent Royalist senator who served on various chamber committees including Defense (of which he chaired) and Judiciary. Although prime ministers were historically members of House of Commons, the 2010 Bicameral Integration Electoral Act explicitly enabled senators to run and hold office as prime minister.
Throughout McComb's career, he was occasionally accused of sexist attitudes and inappropriate behavior around women. In 2006, while he was senator, Hellen Page, a former intern who worked for him, claimed that he touched her inappropriately during a fundraiser event. McComb was questioned by Porciúncula Police Department but decided to not press charges against him due to lack of evidence. The two parties later settled the dispute outside of court for an undisclosed amount of money, and Page later backpedalled on her allegations against him. The incident, although publicized, garnered little attention. At the time, there were a string of false or phony rape accusations surfacing against various politicians, which further diluted claims made against McComb.
Within political circles, rumors from colleagues and insiders often claimed that McComb was a "domineering charlatan" who bullied his subordinates and rivals "mercilessly". Former aides and staffers claimed that McComb often demanded sexual favors in exchange for offering networking and political capital to his victims, and threatened to blacklist them from his donors' lists if they refused to comply. Despite these claims, no formal reports were submitted to law authorities were made during the period of McComb's tenure as senator, although several internal complaints were sent to the Senate Internal Operation's Title III Office. The majority of claims were often anonymous and often reported on tabloids and gossip sites, while being completely ignored by conventional news outlets. "Stories documenting these rumors circulated on the seediest places. They were written alongside pieces touting New World Order conspiracies and faked Moon landings," wrote The Vanguard in a 2012 piece.
In 2007, a woman named Rachel Serrou claimed in The Palms that she and McComb were engaged in a extra-marital affair during the 1990s, and was later raped during their final encounter. The alleged rape resulted in her impregnation and the subsequent birth of Lora Serrou, whom Serrou claimed was McComb's illegitimate daughter. Serrou and her daughter demanded $25 million in "child support", but later refused to turn in her daughter's DNA results to proper authorities when asked for, and instead, elected to have them aired on Sergie, a tabloid talk show. Serrou's claims were widely dismissed, including by McComb himself, who threatened legal action against her for defamation.
On September 27, 2017, Porciúncula Times published a story by journalists Assunta Delle Rose and Tad Pike containing several claims and allegations by over fourteen former associates, staffers, interns, and pages of McComb and his office. The story accused McComb and his staff of two decades of sexually harassing and manipulating both female and male subordinates into compromising situations. They also revealed six separate occasions when McComb and his legal team paid undisclosed settlements out of McComb's own private trusts. According to two of the accusers, McComb's private office was an "institutional sex brothel", where McComb and his colleagues pressured victims into performing or witnessing sexual acts.
On September 30, 2017, RBS correspondent Ryan Finley wrote in Newstar further allegations that McComb had sexually assaulted or harassed eight women and two men, and raped two. Finley reported that he had been investigating the sexual abuse allegations for two years, but claimed no major news outlet, including RBS, was silently suppressing or censoring any such claims regarding the prime minister. He criticized members of Parliament and Porciúncula for keeping quiet on the matter, to which he likened to as a "state secret that puts the Great Basin controversy to shame" due to the magnitude of its severity and lack of open transparency on the issue. According to Finley, he received sources from over 20 different government officials, both former and current, who had connections with McComb, who said they had witnessed or had been informed of McComb's illegal conduct. Royalist MP Diana Kellogg, who represents Brighton from Santa Clara, claimed that after she turned down an offer to accompany McComb in his hotel room following a non-partisan gala event, McComb proceeded to endorse her opponent during the 2014 elections. A number of sources further asserted that McComb frequently threatened or intimidated opponents within Parliament and the media. Former political ally Mark Sandstorm, who ran against McComb's bid for the Royalist nomination for prime minister in 2016 told Finley, "I always had an uneasy, looming suspicion that McComb was hiding something," and cited that this feeling led to their fallout, both personally and professionally.
A day after Finley's story was published, a video originating from the anonymous online forum W0KE began circulating on major news outlets. The video showed a hidden camera recording in the office of Patrick Hennessy, a close friend and former legal associate of McComb. In the video, an unnamed individual posing as a law stuent interviews Hennessy, seemingly about standard legal procedures, before asking Hennessy, "What are with all these rumors about Mr. Daniel McComb". When Hennessy refused to acknowledge the question, the interviewer proceeded to list alleged encounters and victims' names who were assaulted by McComb. Hennessy angrily reacted and said, "I don't know who the hell you are, but everyone up here knows you can't say shit like that. Don't say anything stupid like that. Not here. Not in my office. No one talks about that. Get out."
On October 3, the Grands Ballons Observer released an audio recording submitted by former Tokki executive John Saito, which recorded a six-minute conversation between McComb and television personality James Gove, a conservative political pundit on the EBC. Saito claimed to have received the recording on a digital file from an untraceable source, though it was widely believed to have been stolen from EBC's internal archives from an employee. The conversation was apparently a private conversation recorded after the taping of Gove's 2011 interview with McComb on foreign policy. In the conversation, Gove asked McComb if he had any recent sexual encounters. The following transcript is as follows, with the key sound bite bolded for emphasis:
- MCCOMB: You see, politics is more than just policy. It goes beyond that. You see I know just about everything there is to it around here. My number is in every politician's fast-dial, even the Queen. And that's because I'm a real player in this game. Speeches, money, endorsements, bills. All of it. Even the women too.
- GOVE: So did you...did you, you know...
- MCCOMB: Did what?
- GOVE: Did you get lucky lately?
- MCCOMB: When Tracy [his wife] is away, I always do. I know these women.
- GOVE: So you're saying you have?
- MCCOMB: Look James, I did. I took an aide back to the hotel, but not without a fight and a couple of drinks. The classic and oldest trick in the book. Of course, she got a little panicked but I swooned her, promised her I would give her everything in the world. You know that's true. I always do keep my word, I assure you. After that, it was over, and this was last Saturday. I had to shut her up too you know."'
- GOVE: You're a real sharpshooter, Dan.
- MCCOMB: They're very easy, James. Very easy. (laughs)
Although this section of the recording would dominate the news, other parts of the exchange also featured statements construed as misogynistic and sexist by many. McComb referred to sex as a "conquest" and that he felt vindicated in forcing down his rivals into submission. He spoke openly about power and stressed that much of his sexual encounters were "not even really erotic or arousing to me", but instead, a show of force and power.
After the stories by Porciúncula Times and Newstar released, many individuals involved in the political scene in Porciúncula and related fields came out with similar allegations against McComb. According to close friends and Royalist colleagues, McComb was selective with his victims and would only choose those who were politically aspiring and "willing to bear the small cost" of indulging his sexual fantasies. Although interns were often warned to be affirmative against McComb, insiders claimed he often persuaded them into conducting sexual favors by offering them highly coveted positions in Porciúncula and beyond due to his connections. Former associates and friends claimed McComb had amassed a large network of cooperators, including fellow staffers, lawyers, publicists, and even lawmakers who willingly suppressed any whistleblowing and complaints of sexual abuse. Some political leaders within the Royalist Party were also aware of these occurrences, and resorted to party confidentiality and non-disclosure immunity to prevent formal inquiries on such incidents.
The following list includes the women and men who claimed they were sexually assaulted or harassed by McComb:
- Max Albright, author and ghostwriter
- Katey Black, page and caseworker
- Paige Boeriu, intern
- Samantha Cerulli, staffer
- Grace Chagnon, staffer and Royalist Convention delegate
- Tammy Gneeco, public relations secretary
- Emily Goddard, personal assistant
- Lauren Hitchens, lobbyist
- Heidi Gulotta, lawyer and former associate
- Shyanne Lakin, writer and campaign staffer
- Kelly Kleiman, paralegal
- Whitney Rudd, campaign staffer
- Hellen Page, intern
- Sean Peng, intern
- Ellen Pick, intern
- Julie Santiago, parliamentary page
- Rachel Serrou, bank teller
- Naomi Steller, lobbyist
- Mark Tiang, lobbyist
- Zoey Waters, journalist
- Rachie Zhuang, college student and staffer
In addition to sexual harassment and abuse, Albright and Waters further claimed that they have been raped.
In response to Porciúncula Times's piece, McComb rejected the allegations set forth by the article and denied any wrongdoing. He criticized the article as an "attack piece" that was created to cause "ludicrous distractions" from national issues. He cited his ongoing commitment towards economic and infrastructural recovery from the aftermath of the 2017 Pawnee earthquake and his healthcare reform plan in Parliament. He further stated that the alleged victims were never assaulted, but were merely interested in extorting money from him and gaining publicity "to further their own careers". He also attacked the media, believing that they were "unfairly attempting to usurp [him] with fake news". His initial remarks were widely panned, and even drew criticism from members of his own party. Opinion polls of him plummeted from 57% in mid-September to just 15%, one of the lowest in the history of Sierran prime ministers. The Getty House Press Secretary Andrew Hyland later released a written statement that included:
McComb apologizes for his initial statements towards the claimants for being incendiary and unprofessional. While any claim of sexual misconduct is indeed serious and concerning, it is deeply regrettable to McComb that he has been the subject of continuous false allegations in the past and present...McComb has never resorted to acts of retaliation towards others. He also shown compassion and dignity, with full respect to them as fellow citizens, fellow human beings. He is willing to cooperate with the legal authorities in order to address any concerns surrounding these allegations and to settle the matter, which he holds in confidence, shall reveal the authoritative truth.
After the Grands Ballons Observer's video and article, and the mounting political repercussions that followed, McComb announced that he would be resigning immediately and leave the office in the hands of his deputy, Leslie Steele. A spokesperson representing McComb stated that "he could not allow any further conflict of interest tamper with the democratic processes of being the Office of the Prime Minister" and stated that he would take responsibility and action in the midst of these new allegations as a civilian, rather than as a political leader in office. He expressed gratitude to his party and fellow members in Parliament, and expressed shame and dishonor that he inadvertently caused and brought to the nation as a result of the scandal. While he continued to deny any wrongdoing alleged by the claims, McComb stated that he would be actively searching for the truth and reevaluating his life.
McComb's alleged actions were widely denounced by prominent figures in all echelons of Sierran society. It sparked national outrage and embarrassment, and started a national discussion on the sexually predatory and dangerous environment women and men face in government and political institutions. It also sparked controversy over the silence and past handling of sexual misconduct cases from the Sierran government, as well as condemnation of the willful ignorance by many associates involved with McComb who knew of these incidents. "Such widespread complicity reveals an incredibly disturbing and harrowing look into the systematic oppression and manipulation of vulnerable women supported by the very people we are told to trust," wrote The Bernheim Chronicle in a rare editorial whose opinions reflected the paper as a whole. Prior to McComb's resignation, there were demands for his impeachment, as well as imprisonment. The Royalist Party and Getty House reportedly received over 75,000 calls in the span of three days following the initial papers, demanding McComb be brought to justice and be removed from office.
When the Porciúncula Times and Newstar released their initial reports, the Royalist Party stated that it would exercise "restrained and open skepticism" towards the allegations. Party chairman James Garner stated that it would look into reviewing past cases of alleged sexual misconduct made by McCombs and other politicians, but "would not entertain the presumption of guilt until proven innocent". The party also condemned sexual violence and abuse, and emphasized its commitment towards a safer place for "all people". After the Grands Ballons Observer released its piece on October 3, the Party suspended McComb's membership following his own resignation, and chose Leslie Steele as its temporary new head. After Steele announced no intention to continue serving as prime minister on the same day, the Party stated that it would hold a new leadership election for the party on October 18.
Many members within the Royalist Party expressed initial shock and disbelief. Senator Nemesis Heartwell tweeted "McComb is a great man and public servant. Hard to believe the allegations are true. Innocent until proven guilty!", when the news was surfaced but later expressed deep disappointment and concern as allegations continued and new evidence manifested itself. Heartwell would later proceed to secure the nomination as the new prime minister of Sierra, in the wake of McComb's resignation and Steele's.
Approval ratings for the Royalist Party dropped substantially as well, and party leaders attempted to distance themselves from McComb in the days following his resignation. The incident has been labeled a "momentous public relations disaster", leading leading political experts to express doubt whether the Royalist leadership could salvage the damage caused by the scandal, and avoid displacement by the opposition. On October 14, McComb was formally expelled and banned from the Royalist Party.
As a young woman herself, Her Royal Majesty Angelina II of Sierra expressed deep concern over the allegations of McComb's sexual abuses, but did not produce any further comment until the Grands Ballons Observer's exposé. In a formal written statement, she wrote, "If the allegations against Prime Minister McComb are indeed true, as it would increasingly seem so, then I cannot abide by him any longer. For too long we have turned a blind eye to the disgusting and evil acts sexual predators commit against their victims. In our free and progressive society, horrible acts like these cannot be tolerated and will not be allowed to continue on without the fullest force of impunity and justice." She further stated that her trust with McComb was compromised, and that she had considered exercising her royal prerogative in dismissing McComb from office. After McComb resigned, she stated that "shame on him for such dishonor and evil" and that she would not grant him pardon or commutation for any sentence he is ordered if prosecuted and successfully convicted. She subsequently stripped him of all his heraldic titles and membership to knightly orders.
Members in both houses of Parliament, across all parties, rallied towards forming a special hearing on McComb's sexual abuse allegations. Within the House, Opposition members which consisted of the Democratic-Republicans and the Greens in their Progressive coalition, demanded a new election to take place immediately after McComb's removal or resignation from office. The Opposition encouraged members in McComb's government to defect and join in the push for a motion of no confidence, although this ultimately failed as the Royalist Party opted to instead, controversially rely on the 2016 mandate, and choose a new prime minister in their own closed leadership election. At the behest of a House vote for a formal investigation on McComb, the Senate formed a special ad hoc committee to investigate McComb's alleged sexual abuses during his tenure as a senator. In addition to investigating McComb, the committee also looked into the involvement of other individuals connected to the abuses.
2017 Royalist Party leadership election
In the wake of the allegations, subsequent resignation of McComb, and the refusal of McComb's successor, Leslie Steele, to remain prime minister, the Royalist Party held a leadership contest to determine the new head of the party that would not affect the composition of the House, which was established by the 2016 mandate (of which McComb won in), rather than hold a general election. The election was announced on October 4, the day following McComb's resignation, and was set two weeks ahead on October 18. The move received controversy among House Progressives and the Opposition who preferred initiating a new general election. Six candidates ran in the leadership contest: including Senator Mark Sandstorm from Wasatch; Senator Nemesis Heartwell from San Joaquin; Joe Milliard, the House Speaker; and MP Teresa Malinoskwa from the Inland Empire's district of Coachella.
In the earliest rounds of the contest, Heartwell was the leading candidate, who held 13 more votes over her next competitor, MP Malinoskwa. With the two women possessing a clear lead among the field of candidates, MP Kevin Sharpio and MP Chris Grover withdrew from the election, in order to fasten the selection process, and give focus to the contest's leading candidates. In the second round, Heartwell maintained a significant lead ahead of her competitors. As a woman and an emergent populist from McComb's home province, Heartwell was the preferred choice for many House Royalists who felt would be an appropriate contrast and counterbalance to the damage caused by McComb to the party's ratings. Perception of the party's treatment , handling of the crisis, and protection of women's rights came into dubious questioning, and selecting Heartwell would signal a response to these concerns. Although Heartwell and a number of other candidates were not members of the House (they were sitting members in the Senate), legislation passed in 2010 permitted senators to run for prime minister, provided they secure a seat in the House within 90 days in office.
After the third round, which left only Heartwell and Malinoskwa as the contenders, Malinowska withdrew from the race. Her withdrawal allowed Heartwell to automatically win unopposed, by being unanimously chosen. Heartwell was sworn into office by Queen Angelina II on October 18, and issued the shortest inaugural speech in Sierran history. Heartwell emphasized her desire to focus on tackling on pressing national matters as quickly as possible, while looking carefully into the issue of McComb's alleged sexual misconduct.