Who Is Burns Strider? Hillary Clinton's Ex-Faith Adviser Has Been Her Longtime Supporter
During her 2008 presidential bid, Hillary Clinton declined to fire a top campaign adviser after he was accused of sexual harassment, according to a New York Times report released Friday. (Strider did not respond to the Times' request for comment.) The adviser was ordered into counseling and had some of his pay docked, but was able to remain working on the campaign. So who is Burns Strider, Clinton's former campaign faith adviser and the man against whom these accusations are now being made public?
Strider is a 52-year-old Mississippi native who served as Clinton's senior adviser and director of faith outreach during her 2008 campaign. His job was mainly to help Clinton strategize about connecting to rural and religious voters. According to the Times report, he also sent Clinton "scripture readings every morning for months during the campaign." Politico named Strider as one of the 50 most influential people on Hillary Clinton's life in 2014 and called him a "favorite from her 2008 campaign."
It was during this time that Strider allegedly harassed a 30-year-old female aide, who told superiors that he had several times touched her suggestively and sent her provocative emails. The woman declined to comment on the Times story. She signed a nondisclosure agreement before entering the campaign.
Some campaign officials were reportedly uncomfortable that Strider was allowed to remain in the job after his alleged behavior had come to light. Meanwhile, the woman who'd accused him was forced to move to a different office and given new duties.
A Clinton spokeswoman responded to the Times story with a statement from the law firm that had represented her 2008 campaign. "To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment," the statement reads. "When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken. This complaint was no exception."
Strider also worked for Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. He served as senior adviser to Correct the Record, a super PAC founded to aid that campaign. The Times reports that he was fired from this position for "workplace issues, including allegations that he harassed a young female aide." The committee seems to have dissolved itself after the election, as its website was deactivated in December 2016.
Strider has had a long political career beyond his work with Hillary Clinton and has often served in Democratic leadership roles. He was Congressman Ronnie Shows (D-MS)'s chief of staff, Nancy Pelosi's senior adviser in the early 2000's, and has had directorial and advisory roles in the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the American Values Network, and the U.S. House Democratic Faith Working Group, among others.
Despite all of this, the Times described him in 2008 as something of a political outsider. "While Mr. Strider certainly believes in Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, he does not have the personal, political and financial interest in it that many of her other staff members do," the paper wrote. "He is, adapting a phrase much used by Christians, in the political world but not of the political world." The article also hypothesized that he "may be the happiest man in either campaign" — i.e., Obama's or Clinton's — because of the idealism and religious conviction with which he performed his duties.
Strider has contributed to NPR, Huff Post, the Mississippi Business Journal, and Faithful Democrats. He gave a TEDx Talk in 2014 called "The Happy Community in 3 Acts," which focused on building virtuous and happy communities. "He points out that we are all part of the community," reads a description of Strider's talk, "together on a journey, sharing and growing, discovering that the happiness we pursue lives all around us, in both the spectacular and the mundane."
Strider's long-time advocacy for Christian family values makes an ironic context for these allegations.
Disclosure: Hillary Clinton's son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky joined Social Capital, an investor in Bustle Digital Group, in mid 2017 and joined the Board of Bustle Digital Group in early 2018.