NY State Senate hopeful accuses Netanyahu’s spokesman of sexually assaulting her
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2nd woman, WSJ reporter, tweets of encounter with 'predator'

NY State Senate hopeful accuses Netanyahu’s spokesman of sexually assaulting her

Julia Salazar says media was about to ‘out’ her as victim of 2013 sexual assault; David Keyes denies accusation, saying she has been ‘repeatedly dishonest’ about her past

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman for international media, and New York State Senate hopeful Julia Salazar. Salazar has accused Keyes of sexual assault, an allegation Keyes denies. (Courtesy, Mary Altaffer/AP)
David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman for international media, and New York State Senate hopeful Julia Salazar. Salazar has accused Keyes of sexual assault, an allegation Keyes denies. (Courtesy, Mary Altaffer/AP)

Julia Salazar, a controversial New York State Senate hopeful, on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman for international media, David Keyes, of having sexually assaulted her. Keyes totally denied the claim.

“I’ve been informed that a story is about to run which identifies me as a victim of sexual assault,” Salazar wrote on her Twitter account. “Before this runs, I want to come forward and confirm that I was a victim of sexual assault by David Keyes — the Prime Minister of Israel’s spokesperson to foreign media,” her statement read.

A campaign manager for Salazar, who recently made headlines after reports accused her of lying about her Jewish identity and her place of birth, told The Times of Israel that the Daily Caller website informed him that it was about to publish a story naming her as the woman who had previously, but anonymously, accused Keyes of sexual assault in 2013.

In 2016, the newly appointed Keyes was accused by a woman who asked to remain anonymous of having forced himself upon her three years earlier in New York.

At the time, Keyes did not deny an encounter with the woman, but said that there was “absolutely no coercion in our encounter,” an official said on Keyes’s behalf.

“This story appears to be an effort to cast doubt upon my, and other women’s, accusations against Keyes,” Salazar wrote Wednesday.

“I’ve spoken to other journalists who were investigating accusations against David Keyes on background about this experience, but have never spoken on the record about it until now. There’s a reason women don’t often come forward after a traumatic experience — because of the triggering and vicious responses that follow,” she wrote.

In this August 15, 2018, photo, Democratic New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar speaks during a rally in McCarren Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Salazar added: “I strongly believe sexual assault survivors should not be outed in this way, and am saddened by the effect this story may have on other women.”

Keyes on Tuesday flatly denied her claim.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes (YouTube screenshot)

“This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life. This is yet another example of her dishonesty,” he told The Times of Israel.

On Tuesday evening Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice retweeted Salazar’s post, adding that she believed the Senate hopeful because she “also had a terrible encounter with David Keyes.”

“The man had absolutely no conception of the word ‘no.’ No matter how often I said no, he would not stop pushing himself on me,” Raice wrote. “I was able to extricate myself quickly and it was a very brief and uncomfortable moment but I knew as I walked away I had encountered a predator.”

Raice concluded her tweets by stating: “In subsequent conversations, I had discovered his mistreatment of women was an open secret.”

When reached for comment by Times of Israel, Raice said she had nothing to add beyond her tweets.

Salazar is competing in the Democratic primaries for a seat in the New York State Senate in the 18th district (Brooklyn), which are taking place on Thursday.

Her candidacy has been clouded by controversy after reports surfaced that noted contradicting claims she has made about her Jewishness and her place of birth. In the past Salazar spoke of her Jewish upbringing, but a lengthy expose in Tablet magazine last month quoted her brother as saying that there “was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish.”

Journalists also revealed that Salazar was arrested in 2011 on charges of fraudulently trying to access the bank account of the estranged wife of a famous neighbor, baseball great Keith Hernandez. The charges were never prosecuted and Salazar later sued Hernandez’s wife claiming she tried to frame her in the case. Kai Hernandez settled the lawsuit for $20,000.

Salazar, 27, also falsely claimed to be an immigrant from Colombia, though she was born in Florida. (She said she spent a lot of time in the country as a child.)

In April 2016 — one month after Keyes entered the job as Netanyahu’s foreign media advisor, replacing Mark Regev — Salazar wrote about their alleged sexual encounter in a private Facebook post.

David Keyes, left, accompanies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 11, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/pool)

Only her friends could see the post, but one of them leaked it to the press. After the story broke in Israel, Salazar deleted the post and asked media outlets not to name her as its author.

At the time she described the November 2013 encounter with Keyes, who was then the head of a human rights organization. She said he invited her to his Manhattan apartment to discuss an article she had penned about Israel. After meeting for coffee, they went back to his apartment, where he tried to force himself on her, according to her account.

“I resisted, tried to laugh it off, tried to be polite. But he persisted. Repeatedly. In fact, I told him ‘No, I’d rather not,’ at least a dozen times. Frankly, I was really uninterested in having any physical contact with this guy,” she wrote.

“Eventually, after I insisted on leaving his apartment repeatedly, he physically coerced me. After I submitted to him, he finally allowed me to leave. I remember going into the elevator and sobbing, and getting off before the ground floor so that I could wipe my face with a tissue, so the doorman wouldn’t embarrassingly see me leaving his building in tears so late at night.”

On Tuesday, the good government group Citizens Union withdrew its backing of Salazar for the State Senate, for misrepresenting her academic credentials. Her campaign materials indicated she graduated from Columbia University, but she later said she had completed her coursework there but not graduated.

AP contributed to this report.

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