Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Richard Carmona denied allegations from a former colleague that he pounded angrily on her door in the middle of the night, and called on his Republican opponent, Congressman Jeff Flake, to stop airing a “deplorable” ad featuring the accusation.
Carmona said the he-said-she-said allegation by Cristina Beato, his boss for several years while he served as U.S. surgeon general, is completely fabricated. He said Beato has no credibility, accusing her of twisting scientific evidence to conform to her political agenda. He noted that the U.S. Senate refused to confirm her nomination to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services due to allegations that she lied about her qualifications.
The former surgeon general accused Flake of spreading false allegations about him to boost a flagging U.S. Senate campaign.
“For Congressman Flake to knowingly make these false attacks is baseless and deplorable,” Carmona said. “The real issue here is Congressman Flake delving to these depths because he saw that he was losing, and the fact of the matter is they need to get traction and be able to undermine me.”
Jennifer Cabe, a former colleague of both Beato and Carmona at HHS, defended Carmona at a press conference today. She denied Beato’s claim that Carmona has problems with women.
Cabe, the executive director of the Canyon Ranch Institute, where Carmona serves with her as a board member, called Beato’s allegations “100 percent false.”
“Dr. Cristina Beato isn’t credible. Dr. Beato frequently tried to alter reports, remarks and speeches out of the office of the surgeon general when Dr. Carmona was the surgeon general in an effort to twist science to fit a political agenda. Her political agenda,” Cabe said. “I’ve worked with Dr. Carmona for 10 years, and in that time he has shown himself to be a true leader. He is kind. He is compassionate toward everyone in every walk of life. And he’s a pleasure to work with.”
In Flake’s ad, Beato recounts an alleged incident in which she said Carmona banged on her door in the middle of the night and screamed at her while she was in the house with her two young children. Beato, who was Carmona’s boss from 2003 to 2005, testified to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2007 that she was frightened by Carmona’s behavior and that he was a “living nightmare” to work with because he had trouble working for a female supervisor.
“There was an angry pounding on the door, in the middle of the night. I’m a single mom. I feared for my kids and for myself. It was Richard Carmona and I was his boss. Carmona is not who he seems. He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women. I have testified to this under oath to Congress. Richard Carmona should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate,” Beato said in the ad that Flake began airing this week.
Beato’s allegations were first made public in a May article in Politico.
In a press release from the Flake campaign shortly after today’s press conference, Arthur Lawrence, a 37-year veteran of HHS, defended his former colleague Beato, who joined the department following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and anthrax attacks.
Lawrence described Beato as “direct and honest, a true patriot” who “practiced high personal and professional standards.”
“She was truly amazing in her professional and analytic abilities in important aspects of follow-up to the attacks, but particularly in looking out for the welfare of women, children, all minority communities, and persons who do not speak English as their first language,” Lawrence said. “She provided significant advice and counsel on work that needed to be done to protect all persons at risk, especially the hard to reach and under-served.”
Flake spokesman Andrew Wilder said accused Carmona of a “lifetime pattern of arrogance and confrontational behavior toward women.” He referred to accusations that Beato falsified her qualifications as a “resume mistake.’
“In 2007, Dr. Beato testified to Congress about her experiences with Dr. Carmona. And it’s not an isolated case – media reports have shown that other women have reported aggressive behavior by Dr. Carmona toward them. Does he contend that these women are all lying?” Wilder said in an email to the Arizona Capitol Times. “Rather than substantively address their allegations, Dr. Carmona has responded with attacks. That only reinforces that there’s a troubling pattern of confrontational behavior with women he has worked with, and raises reasonable doubt to whether he has the temperament to serve in the United States Senate.”
Carmona, however, said Beato did not make her allegation until years after the alleged incident occurred. She did not call the police at the time, nor did she ever file a complaint or report with HHS.
Carmona acknowledged that he and Beato often clashed at HHS, saying they disagreed over her politicization and distortions of scientific fact. But she only made the accusation, Carmona said, after he testified to Congress in 2007 that President George W. Bush’s administration put political agendas above public health and scientific evidence.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me. And then all of a sudden to remember it years later when it’s politically convenient, it sounds a bit disingenuous to me,” Carmona said.
He said the Government Reform Committee vetted Beato’s allegations and found them to be “without merit.”
Carmona countered Flake’s ad with one of his own. In the ad, Capt. Kathleen Brennan, Carmona’s former commander at the Pima County SWAT team, said Carmona was “a joy to work with.”
“Rich treats everyone with respect. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. Rich was about protecting people and saving lives,” Brennan said in the ad. “So when I see a career politician like Jeff Flake attacking Rich Carmona, who has spent his life helping others, it’s despicable. Congressman Flake should be ashamed.”
Carmona also accused Flake of using Beato’s accusations to distract voters from his own “dismal record” on women’s issues. Carmona spokesman Andy Barr said he was referring to Flake’s votes to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict access to contraception.
Flake pointed to accusations from 2002, when Carmona was preparing confirmation hearings, from former colleagues that he has a history of escalating hostilities with colleagues, “bullied” a nurse he worked with and has anger problems in general.
Carmona said Republicans were unconcerned with such allegations when Bush appointed him surgeon general in 2002, noting that he received unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. He said those allegations have no merit.
“In 30-plus years in senior leadership positions, I have worked with and supervised literally many, many thousands of people. And in that 30-plus year career, it’s not surprising that you may have a couple, a few disgruntled employees who disagreed with you,” Carmona said.
The accusations and attack ads came as the Carmona-Flake battle has become one of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the country. Outside groups, including the Club for Growth, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, FreedomWorks, Majority PAC, National Republican Senatorial Committee and VoteVets are spending millions on ads for the two candidates.
Polling shows a tight race. On Wednesday, DSCC released a poll showing Carmona with a 5-point lead, while Flake followed with a poll of his own showing him with a 6-point lead.