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House GOP’s inclusion of 'salacious' Commanders cheerleaders photos in official memo draws blowback

Attorneys for former Washington Commanders employees demanded that Republicans remove the photos from a memo on the findings of a 'toxic work culture' on the NFL team.
The Washington Commanders face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Landover, Md., on Sept. 11. 
The Washington Commanders face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Landover, Md., on Sept. 11. Nick Wass / AP file

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for more than 40 former Washington Commanders employees are demanding that House Republicans remove "sexualized and salacious photographs" of the NFL team's cheerleaders featured in a GOP-written memo about the football team.

The attorneys, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, wrote a letter Tuesday to Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, saying that their "clients are both humiliated and incensed by the GOP’s reckless dissemination of these photographs in an official Congressional document."

"They also feel retaliated against by Republican Committee members who have apparently chosen to embarrass them publicly for coming forward," the lawyers said. "There was simply no legitimate reason for GOP members to have done this, and it has caused our clients additional and unnecessary pain."

The Dec. 7 GOP report was released in advance of a scathing final report from the Democratic-led committee published the following day, which alleged that dozens of Commanders employees were harmed for more than two decades because of a "toxic work culture."

The GOP's inclusion of the photos was a "desperate effort," the employees' attorneys wrote, to protect team owner Daniel Snyder from the scathing findings in that report.

The lawyers are asking that the photos be removed from congressional servers, websites and, if applicable, the Congressional Record.

Republicans released the 210-page memo last week that featured explicit photos of the former cheerleaders. Their lawyers said Tuesday that the images, "which show women’s breasts, buttocks and genital areas, were disseminated without the women’s permission." (The GOP report put black boxes over the women's faces and some body parts.)

In a statement, a Republican Oversight Committee aide criticized the Democrats' report and defended the GOP memo.

“From the start, Democrats cherry-picked facts to support their fabricated narrative rather than conduct a fulsome investigation. Republicans issued an internal memo that included information showing that there is more evidence to be considered," the aide said. "Prior to circulating the internal memo, Committee staff took steps to ensure all sensitive images involving cheerleaders were redacted and their identities kept confidential. As we have said from the beginning, the Oversight Committee is not the proper venue for this investigation. Oversight Republicans intend to return the Committee to its primary responsibilities of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government.”

The Democrats' report last week "reflects the damning findings of the Committee’s year-long investigation and shows how one of the most powerful organizations in America, the NFL, mishandled pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct at the Washington Commanders," Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement at the time.

“Our report tells the story of a team rife with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and an influential organization that chose to cover this up rather than seek accountability and stand up for employees. To powerful industries across the country, this report should serve as a wake-up call that the time of covering up misconduct to protect powerful executives is over.”