Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, April 20, defending himself from allegations that he groped eight women. He has denied wrongdoing. (Screenshot from news conference)
OMAHA — Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster continued this week to say allegations that he had groped eight women were false and politically motivated.
Speaking during an online news conference Wednesday from his company’s condominium on the Omaha riverfront, Herbster said he respects “all females across this land.”
He implied that the women’s allegations, reported by the Nebraska Examiner, may have been orchestrated by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Ricketts has denied doing so. The reporting behind the Examiner’s account, published April 14, was conducted over several months stretching to June 2021. The Examiner also corroborated the eight women’s accounts with people who said they witnessed the incidents or were told about them by the women immediately afterward.
Three people came forward on the record Monday to confirm three of the women’s accounts. When asked during the news conference about their statements in the Examiner’s latest article, Herbster repeated his denial.
“All of those allegations are totally false,” Herbster said. “I have never ever done any of the things that you’re talking about with any individual, period, in my entire life.”
Herbster again singled out GOP State Sen. Julie Slama for criticism. Slama confirmed to the Examiner last week that Herbster had reached up her skirt and touched her during a 2019 Douglas County GOP fundraiser without her consent.
“As I was going in, walking to my table, I felt a hand reach up my skirt, up my dress, and the hand was Charles Herbster’s,” Slama told KFAB radio after the Examiner’s story was published.
Herbster said Slama was motivated politically, which Slama and her defenders described as ridiculous, given the amount of vitriol she has taken online and from Herbster and his supporters.
Some outside political groups, including the Nebraska Freedom Coalition, have echoed Herbster’s questions surrounding why Slama would take meetings with him, accept a donation and invite him to her wedding after the incident.
Slama has said she felt she had to work with Herbster while serving as a state senator for District 1 in southeast Nebraska, where Herbster owns a home and a farm. She explained he received a wedding invitation as a mistake caused by auto-populating a list of donors.
She said she was mortified to learn he had been invited and questioned why an innocent person would take screenshots before and after accepting a wedding invitation.
Herbster’s campaign and the Nebraska Freedom Coalition shared the screenshots publicly this week, along with emails and text messages they said show Slama interacted with him.
Experts who counsel and work with victims of sexual assault have told the Examiner it’s common for survivors to keep interacting with an alleged abuser even after an incident.
“It’s incredibly common for survivors to do that,” said Christon MacTaggart, executive director of the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Herbster has said he plans to sue to protect his name. His legal team has delivered letters to several people, including a Nebraska Examiner reporter, asking them to preserve records about the allegations of groping.
During the online news conference, Herbster said he had met with Slama alongside former Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and another staffer. Heineman told the Examiner on Thursday that he attended no such meeting.
Herbster also told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during Bannon’s podcast this week that he had filed a lawsuit against Slama. His campaign confirmed to the Omaha World-Herald on Thursday that a lawsuit had not been filed.
Clarification: Herbster gave money in 2020 to the Nebraska Republican Liberty Caucus. Part of the caucus branched off in July 2021 and became the Nebraska Freedom Coalition.
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