WASHINGTON — Attorneys for more than 40 former Washington Commanders employees are demanding that House Republicans remove “sexualized and embarrassing photos” of NFL cheerleaders featured in a GOP-written memo about the football team.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz wrote a letter Tuesday to Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, saying their “clients are humiliated and outraged by the GOP’s reckless dissemination of this photo in an official document of Congress.”
“They also feel retaliated against by Republican caucus members who apparently decided to publicly embarrass them for coming forward,” the lawyers said. “There was simply no legitimate reason for GOP members to do this, and it caused our customers additional and unnecessary pain.”
The Dec. 7 GOP report came ahead of a scathing final report by a Democrat-led committee released the next day that alleged dozens of Commanders employees were harmed over two decades by a “toxic work culture.”
The GOP’s inclusion of the photos was a “desperate effort,” attorneys for the employees wrote, to shield team owner Daniel Snyder from the report’s scathing findings.
Attorneys are requesting that the photos be removed from congressional servers, websites and, if applicable, the congressional record.
Republicans released a 210-page memo last week that included explicit photos of the former cheerleaders. Their lawyers said on Tuesday that the images “depicting women’s breasts, buttocks and genital areas were distributed without the women’s permission.” (The GOP report placed black boxes on the women’s faces and some body parts.)
In a statement, a Republican oversight committee aide criticized the Democrats’ report and defended the GOP memo.
“From the beginning, the Democrats cherry-picked facts to support their fabricated narrative instead of conducting a comprehensive investigation. Republicans released an internal memo that included information indicating that more evidence needed to be considered,” the aide said. “Prior to circulating the internal memo, committee staff ensured that all sensitive images involving cheerleaders were redacted and their identity remained confidential. As we said at the beginning, the supervisory board is not the right place for this investigation. Oversight Republicans plan to return the committee to its core tasks of rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.
The Democrats’ report last week “reflects the damning findings of the committee’s year-long investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, has mishandled widespread sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders,” chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said. statement at the time.
“Our report tells the story of a team riddled with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and a powerful organization choosing to cover it up rather than demand accountability and stand up for employees. To powerful industries across the country, this report should serve as a warning that the time for covering up misconduct to protect powerful executives is over.”
Rebecca Shabad is a political reporter for NBC News based in Washington.
Michael Kosnar is a Justice Department producer for the NBC News Washington Bureau.