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WASHINGTON — A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.
Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party’s messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past “allegations of misconduct.”
After NBC News raised questions about Ventry’s employment history and the sexual harassment allegation against him, Judiciary Committee Spokesman Taylor Foy replied in a statement: “While (Ventry) strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee.”
Republicans familiar with the situation had been concerned that Ventry, because of his history, could not lead an effective communications response.
Ventry worked as a social media adviser in 2017 in the office of North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell, who fired Ventry after several months.
“Mr. Ventry did work in my office and he’s no longer there, he moved on,” Bell told NBC News. He refused to discuss the precise nature of the firing.
Ventry did not answer questions about the circumstances of his departure but said, “I deny allegations of misconduct.” He also forwarded a letter of resignation he said he sent to Bell, giving two weeks notice. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve on the staff of the North Carolina House Majority leader at the North Carolina General Assembly,” it read.
Sources familiar with the situation said Ventry was let go from Bell’s office after parts of his résumé were found to have been embellished, and because he faced an accusation of sexual harassment from a female employee of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Republican staff.
Ventry’s termination was described to NBC News as unusually swift for an office with little overall turnover.
“It caused a lot of staff drama. It was the chatter of the staff,” the source told NBC News. “The whole thing got turned into a he said, she said, and then Garrett was fired.”
NBC News has attempted to contact the woman whom Ventry allegedly harassed, but she has not replied.
Two sources told NBC News that Ventry had listed on his resume a paid position with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in North Carolina in 2016, when in reality he had only served as a volunteer.
On his public LinkedIn.com page, Ventry lists no previous employers or experience. One source familiar with the matter said Ventry was, indeed, an unpaid volunteer for the Rubio campaign and that he had falsely claimed he was part of the campaign’s digital team when he was not.
In his role as a spokesman for Grassley, Ventry regularly spoke to journalists and used his Twitter account to respond to the latest news developments around the Kavanaugh nomination. Ventry has also made TV appearances explaining the committee’s actions.
“Chairman Grassley has led a very transparent process,” Ventry told Fox News on Wednesday, saying the committee was intent on providing a “comfortable setting” for Ford to come forward and testify.
It’s unclear how Ventry was tasked with the important role of helping guide the committee’s communications strategy at such a consequential moment.
Ventry still appears to be employed at CRC Public Relations, a prominent GOP firm helping to promote Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court, according to a Zoom Info listing dated July 25, 2018. NBC has reached out to CRC for comment.
CRC counts among its clients the Federalist Society, the conservative group that President Donald Trump used to select his pick for the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.
Politico reported Friday that CRC was behind conservative activist Ed Whelan’s suggestion that he had evidence that a classmate of Kavanaugh had been the perpetrator of the attack on Blasey Ford.
After tweeting and posting photographs and Google maps implicating Kavanaugh’s classmate, Whelan faced considerable backlash, including a statement from Blasey Ford herself saying there was “zero chance” she would confuse the two men. Whelan was forced to apologize.
On Twitter, Ventry said the Judiciary Committee had “no knowledge or involvement” in the incident involving CRC.