Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro piously talked his way across New Hampshire on Saturday, safely out of range of reporters who know what’s really going on back in his home state.
It’s not pretty.
Shapiro pushed his way into the limelight several years ago with a made-for-the-media grand jury report rehashing decades of sexual abuse allegations against Catholic clergymen. Shapiro’s report retold incidents that had already been rightly and aggressively prosecuted but topped off the tank with unproven complaints impossible to verify because many of the named priests were dead.
Shapiro’s indignation knew no bounds. The cameras loved him.
Flash forward to last week. One of Shapiro’s closest aides, an old ally from his days in the Pennsylvania Legislature and, later, the Attorney General’s office, resigned in disgrace. The short version is that Mike Vereb, Shapiro’s secretary for legislative affairs – a cabinet-level post – abruptly resigned without explanation.
As it turns out, Shapiro’s good buddy – one he protected for six months after accusations first surfaced – is possibly a predator.
A woman in Vereb’s office quit the administration less than a month after taking the job, handing in her resignation on March 6. It was followed by a sexual harassment complaint that depicted Vereb as an out-of-control bully, explicitly suggesting sex acts she could perform for him right there at his Capitol desk. Replete with accounts of Vereb boasting of his sexual prowess so matter-of-factly, it’s a wonder more women haven’t come forward.
Shapiro’s problem here is that the Vereb scandal began to unfold in March. There were hearings and, according to Shapiro’s aides, a thorough investigation, though apparently not a successful one. Vereb stayed on as a top Shapiro aide for six more months. He traveled with the governor, pushed his agenda during budget negotiations, and enjoyed the stature of his state post after driving a young woman out of hers.
It is impossible to imagine that Shapiro didn’t know about the allegations, nor about Vereb’s reputation in Harrisburg. It was “Bro Culture” at its worst.
When Vereb finally resigned his post, it was without explanation from the Shapiro administration, which issued a news release praising him. This from a man whose now glowing national profile was in large part boosted by claiming to be an unequivocal champion for the victims of sexual predators.
It’s plain to see that Shapiro was hoping the whole thing would go away and, when it didn’t, tried to pretend it never happened.
This is the man Pennsylvania dispatched to New Hampshire to champion his party. The press there likely knew little about what he was hiding back home. Reporters here do. Let’s hope they don’t let this pass without a clear explanation about what the governor knew and when he knew it.
Vereb and Shapiro are products of the Harrisburg culture. It’s a town where elected officials often misbehave in their private lives and look at women as adornments to be exploited. The Shapiro Administration has responded to this scandal by reissuing policy papers advertising a strong stand against sexual harassment.
It’s not enough for an administration to issue meaningless pieces of paper while it pretends to care about the safety and well-being of a young woman who was forced out of her workplace due to behavior everyone surely knew was occurring. Shapiro owes the citizens of Pennsylvania an explanation for this unconscionable delay in acting on Vereb.
It might result in the one moment Josh Shapiro runs from a camera.