Several women have come forward alleging rampant sexual harassment at right-leaning student activist organization Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). These individuals are current and former volunteers associated with the group. They claim that a number of the organization’s male leaders have engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior towards young women in their ranks.
The controversy began on social media when Addyson Rae Garner, a state chair for the organization from 2018 to 2019, posted a tweet alleging widespread sexual harassment from its leaders. “Rape. Sexual assault. Harassment. I’ve heard it all from girls coming out of YAL,” she wrote. “The ones who speak up are brushed off, gaslit, or fired.”
— Addyson Rae Garner (@realPOTUS2040) January 9, 2021
Garner outlined the alleged harassment that she, and others, experienced while working with YAL. She claimed that Cliff Maloney, president of the group, Justin Greiss, vice president of mobilization, and other male leaders were inappropriate with female volunteers.
“Cliff Maloney asked my friend to bring him food after a long day at a conference, and once he got her alone, he tried to use his position at YAL to extort her for sex at the expense of her good standing within the organization,” she wrote.
Garner also detailed her own experience. “I was groped by a fellow state chair. The offender was later endorsed for state office, and YAL sent students to door knock for him. When I messaged Cliff Maloney to follow up on the situation, he blocked me.”
In a conversation with RedState, Garner described a “numbers-oriented” culture in which men behaved inappropriately towards women.
YAL culture is very numbers-oriented. You’ll see that reflected in statements from leaders justifying abuse. There’s an unspoken rule that if you’re good at your job, you’re untouchable.
Men felt comfortable making openly sexist and racist comments. Speaking up about it labels you a ‘leftist’ or opponent of free speech. Even in spaces you think would be safe to discuss these struggles (like female staff chats) talk of misogyny in the office was typically shut down by multiple parties.
The former activist said that women who spoke up would be subject to “ridicule, gaslighting,” and implications that “she’s hurting the movement or not truly invested in the goals.”
She said management would also retaliate by “blocking, firing, or blacklisting” women at “other liberty organizations.”
Zuri Davis, who was deeply affiliated with the group when she was in college, confirmed Garner’s allegations, stating that she also heard of sexual harassment incidents from numerous women who worked with YAL.
“I’m personally vouching for @realPOTUS2040 and the multiple other things women who have shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of Cliff Maloney and/or the men at YAL HQ. I didn’t say anything for a long time because I was afraid for my job. No longer,” she wrote
I’m personally vouching for @realPOTUS2040 and the multiple other things women who have shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of Cliff Maloney and/or the men at YAL HQ. I didn’t say anything for a long time because I was afraid for my job. No longer. https://t.co/HiOH7fRVU1
— Zuri Davis (@ProperlyZuri) January 9, 2021
Davis told RedState that while she was not sexually harassed, “A friend contacted me last year to say Cliff harassed her at an event. From there, I became privy to more allegations and evidence. I promised that when the time came, I would speak up and share what I knew.”
She is also sharing the stories she has heard from others.
Since Garner posted her original thread, other women have given her permission to share their stories. Others posted about their experiences on Twitter.
A user by the name of Maggie posted a thread detailing her encounter. “I was sexually assaulted by a coworker at YAL, and he was terminated after HR held an investigation. I do not want to go into details about him, the assault, etc, but I decided that it was finally time to talk about what’s been going on with me this year,” she wrote.
Maggie explained that this particular employee was fired, but she still experienced retaliation. She wrote, “since his termination, I have experienced social isolation and targeted harassment from members all the way up to staff. The past six months have been extremely lonely for me. Anonymous accounts have been created multiple times to try to out me.”
Another Twitter user named “Lexi” posted a thread telling of her experience. “In 2019 I joined YAL and that summer participated in OWD. I was sexually harassed by my boss and decided it was for the best for me to resign from OWD. I was so hesitant to come forward about everything cause I knew YAL was a boys club and I was scared I wouldn’t be believed,” she tweeted.
In 2019 I joined YAL and that summer participated in OWD. I was sexually harassed by my boss and decided it was for the best for me to resign from OWD. I was so hesitant to come forward about everything cause I knew YAL was a boys club and I was scared I wouldn’t be believed.
— Lexi (@Lexi_is_great) January 10, 2021
Lexi explained that she “wrote emails to YAL explaining everything that happened and how I would be leaving the campaign.” She was later told by one of her co-workers that “one of the higher ups” told the staff that “they weren’t allowed to have contact with me until the campaign was over.”
The leader who harassed Lexi ended up stepping down, but was hired again later. “I was disgusted and pissed that YAL would [be] willing [to] keep employing a person who sexually assaults the young women who work under him.”
A user named “Taylor Marie” posted a thread describing an incident in which Cliff Maloney came on to her. She claimed that after telling Jeff Frazee, the founder of the organization, what happened, no action was taken.
Taylor’s account details a 2017 YAL conference where Maloney, her boss at the time, asked her to bring him some food in his hotel room. After she arrived, he allegedly attempted to coerce her into sleeping with him. She wrote:
“He lectured me about loyalty to him, and that people who aren’t loyal to him ‘don’t stick around long’ in the organization, before asking me to come get in bed with him. To be clear, I didn’t. I actually gave him a chance, in tears, to take back what he said and apologize. He used that opportunity to make sexually demeaning comments about me instead.”
“I left the room and immediately called my best friend sobbing, trying to figure out how to get home from D.C.”
— Taylor Marie (@Libertay1776) January 9, 2021
Taylor said she told Frazee that she wanted him removed from the organization. She stated that she did not wish for the issue to become public. “I made it very VERY clear, I wanted to gain absolutely nothing from this, I just wanted this to never happen again.”
She said she was told that it was a “hard position to be in, because he is good at his job.”
Garner shared a message she received from another woman who claims to have experienced sexual harassment. This incident involved Justin Greiss, a vice president of YAL. The former YAL associate stated that he tried to drag her into a hotel room and “verbally harassed” her as well. She indicated that they were “frequently” at “events together.” Greiss allegedly made “comments about my chest, inquiring if I was wearing a bra,” according to the woman.
She alleges that on election night in 2016, they were both at a bar with a group of volunteers and workers when Greiss allegedly accosted her. The woman wrote:
in the middle of the bar, he tried to pull the top of my dress down to see if I was wearing a bra. Then he made several pleas about going back up to his hotel room (his gf had already left to go home because she wasn’t feeling well). He grabbed me by the wrist and forced me to grab his penis and then tried to drag me across the hotel bar. I ended up pushing him and grabbing a friend and leaving.
After more women posted tweets recounting their experiences being sexually harassed, Frazee put out a statement indicating that YAL was taking the accusations seriously. “While I have great reluctance to address confidential HR matters publicly, I’d like to share that YAL takes any accusation of misconduct seriously,” he wrote.
He added: “Every concern that is brought to our attention regarding potential misconduct is investigated and appropriate steps are taken in response. We urge anyone to come to us directly regarding any evidence of bad actors, and I would expect YAL to do the right thing, as it always has, and under my leadership, always will.”
The next day, the organization released another statement announcing that “As a result of these allegations and details, the board has placed President, Cliff Maloney, and Vice President of Grassroots, Justin Greiss, on administrative leave pending the conclusion of a thorough investigation into all allegations.”
Young Americans for Liberty is a conservative and libertarian student activist group with chapters all across the United States. According to the group’s website, “Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is the most active and effective pro-liberty youth organization advancing liberty on campus and in American electoral politics. Our four-step mission is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists to make liberty win.”
YAL’s leadership did not respond to requests for comment.