Herbster’s assistant and two women alleging groping disagree about 2019 dinner

By: - May 2, 2022 7:31 pm

Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster gives an interview before former President Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Greenwood, Nebraska on Sunday. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

OMAHA — Nebraska governor candidate Charles Herbster’s campaign on Monday again challenged the accounts of two women who said Herbster groped them during a 2019 political fundraising dinner in Omaha.

The campaign issued a statement from Herbster’s paid personal assistant, Michelle Keithley. Keithley said in the statement that she rarely leaves Herbster’s side at “most political and social events.” Someone is “always there,” she said.

Keithley said she was with her “beloved friend and boss” for much of the 2019 Elephant Remembers dinner, where the two women said they were groped. Her statement acknowledges that she wasn’t with him the whole time.

“There was rarely an occasion that evening when I wasn’t with Charles,” she said. “Charles was never alone during the evening. … I certainly would have been aware that something had happened.” 

State Sen. Julie Slama has said Herbster reached up her skirt and touched her inappropriately while she walked by him at the dinner. 

Then-legislative staffer Elizabeth Todsen has said that at the same event Herbster pulled her into a hug as they were shaking hands, and he grabbed her buttocks.

Slama and Todsen are two of eight women who told the Nebraska Examiner that Herbster had groped them at political events or beauty pageants over the past six years. The other six women spoke on the condition their names not be used. Herbster has denied wrongdoing.

Todsen initially spoke on condition of anonymity but came forward Friday to share her identity. She said Monday that she stands by her description of Herbster’s behavior at the event. 

Slama’s lawyer, Dave Lopez, said Slama would “not litigate Charles Herbster’s misstatements and misrepresentations through press statements.” 

Lopez said the legal process “will require Mr. Herbster, and others connected to him, including Ms. Keithley, to answer questions and make statements under penalty of perjury.” Herbster has sued Slama for defamation. Slama has counter-sued him for sexual battery. 

Slama’s attorneys have scheduled a deposition of Herbster for 9 a.m. Friday at the Johnson County Courthouse.

Several people who attended the 2019 dinner for the Douglas County Republican Party, including two people who spoke on the record, have corroborated Slama’s and Todsen’s accounts of what happened.

One of those witnesses, combat veteran Edward Boone, said, “I stand by what I said 100 percent.” He said he saw Herbster move “his hands down” to Todsen’s behind and grab it.

“As far as I could tell, he came over by himself,” Boone said of Herbster, whom Boone said had stopped by the table he sponsored for young Republicans at the dinner. 

The other person who spoke on the record, Alex DeGarmo, has said he was at the dinner when Slama told him about Herbster reaching up her dress. He said that she was “shaken and disturbed.” 

Herbster’s personal assistant said in her statement that it “would have been impossible for Charles to have done what he has been accused of without it creating a noticeable stir and public scene.” 

Slama has said she was too shocked by what happened to react right away. Boone has said he asked Todsen if she wanted him to intervene with Herbster and that she asked him not to make a scene.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

MORE FROM AUTHOR