State Rep. Deborah Armstrong has joined Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office in denying allegations this week that the governor sexually assaulted her former campaign communications director during her candidacy for office.
James Hallinan — who also worked as a spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas and First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna, as well as a campaign consultant for State Auditor Brian Colón and other elected officials — has alleged Lujan Grisham assaulted him during a routine campaign meeting at Armstrong’s home in the months leading up to the 2018 general election.
Hallinan told The New Mexican on Friday that Lujan Grisham dumped water on his crotch and then touched his genitals. He described the incident as a “slap and grab” and said it haunts him every day.
He first made a vague allegation in a Christmas Day post on Twitter while he was heading out of the country. “A governor … is not above the law for her sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!) I’ll talk more when I return to the country,” Hallinan tweeted Wednesday.
He alleged in a tweet later Thursday that he had endured “long, horrific abuse” from Lujan Grisham and accused her staff of attempting to cover it up.
The tweets created a local social media stir, with conservatives pouncing on the governor and others responding to the allegations with ridicule and disbelief.
In Friday’s telephone interview, Hallinan said, “It’s eaten away at me every single day, all the time. And I’m not the only one, like I tweeted. They can try to defame me and say I’m horrible, that I’m this or that. No one is perfect, and they can criticize me all they want, but that doesn’t change what happened.”
The Governor’s Office has said Hallinan’s allegations are “categorically false,” and Armstrong on Friday said in an email she “never witnessed any such thing.”
In a follow-up email, Armstrong said, “I never witnessed anything inappropriate and have nothing more to add.”
A governor @GovMLG is not above the law for her sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!) I’ll talk more when I return to the country. @dominicgabello @vicrreyes @debarm @KOB4 @krqe @foxnewsalert @koat7news @newsguy44 #liar #predator pic.twitter.com/l9erfWsPb2— James Hallinan (@JamesHallinan) December 25, 2019
So tomorrow will be interesting. I declined a lot of interviews today for various reasons.. I’ll only speak with the @AP’s @RussContreras about her horrific sexual assaults of me and other staffers. There are so many more victims than me. #nmpol pic.twitter.com/RG1k9lIKpd— James Hallinan (@JamesHallinan) December 26, 2019
Hallinan said he’s currently on an undisclosed tropical island because he fears for his life. He claimed Lujan Grisham has a history of being verbally abusive to him and described a power dynamic in which he said he felt as if she had him “under her thumb.”
He said he was sexually assaulted in front of Armstrong, Lujan Grisham’s campaign adviser Dominic Gabello and two other staffers.
In response to an inquiry with Gabello, the governor’s spokeswoman, Nora Meyers Sackett, said in a phone call Friday, “We’re a rambunctious bunch. I think they were playing around with water.”
Sackett continued, “Three other people who were in the room attest to the fact that what he says happened did not happen. It’s not a he-said, she-said situation.”
In a statement provided Thursday, Sackett called the allegations “bizarre and slanderous.”
Hallinan did not join the administration when the governor took office in January 2019. He since has started his own public relations company with clients outside state government.
In her statement Thursday, Sackett said Hallinan’s employment during Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign “was marked by frequent and repeated incidents of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.
“He continually showed a blatant disregard and disrespect for both campaign leadership and his fellow staff members,” she said. “His behavior ensured that he was never considered for a position in the governor’s administration.”
Hallinan said Friday that he tried to quit his position with Lujan Grisham’s campaign after the incident, but Gabello encouraged him not to go to the police and pressured him to stay on the campaign staff until the election.
“He pressured me on the phone later that night not to quit. I tried to quit,” Hallinan said. “And I wanted to talk and they didn’t want me to talk to law enforcement.”
Hallinan claimed Lujan Grisham has a history of verbally abusing and bullying him and other staff. For example, he said, during a drive to Albuquerque from Las Cruces, Lujan Grisham was making fun of Hallinan, “calling me a slut.”
He continued, “I’ve seen adult human beings literally convulse and shake and try not to cry after being berated by her in front of people. She would berate us and belittle us and shame us, publicly and privately.
“It’s really hard. It wears on us. I make mistakes. But I’ll tell you what, this has eaten at me. It has destroyed me,” Hallinan said.