When Save the Children hired Gerald Anderson in 2013, the global charity believed it was hiring a veteran humanitarian executive with a sterling resume. Anderson had spent more than 15 years working around the world for the American Red Cross, rising through the ranks to lead the group's massive relief effort after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. After that, the Red Cross made him head of its half-billion-dollar response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Perhaps most crucially, the Red Cross gave him "very positive references," including from a senior official, Save the Children said.
But the Red Cross didn't tell its counterparts at Save the Children an important fact about Anderson's work history: He had just been forced to resign from his job after the charity concluded he sexually harassed at least one subordinate.
The Red Cross' handling of the Anderson case, coming to light as the nation wrestles more broadly with its treatment of sexual misconduct allegations, sheds light on the unsettling way many employers have dealt with such allegations against high-ranking male executives. Even when employers take action, their investigations are often cursory, and accusers can be left feeling abandoned when the executives are quietly dismissed and land plum new jobs. While many employers make a practice of giving neutral recommendations, or simply dates of service, the Red Cross gave Anderson a good review, with no hint of concern.
At the Red Cross, two young women came forward in September 2012 to accuse Anderson. One, who worked under Anderson, cited disturbing emails he sent to her work account insisting they should have a romantic relationship. A Red Cross attorney subsequently acknowledged to her that investigators had found her account to have merit.
The second woman, Eliza Paul, a program assistant who met him at an after-work happy hour, lodged even more serious allegations against Anderson. She told Red Cross officials she had woken up naked in his bed without knowing how she had gotten there and had gone to the hospital for a rape kit exam.
Anderson's lawyer declined to answer specific questions but said in a statement: "Mr. Anderson has not engaged in any sexual misconduct."
The Red Cross launched an internal investigation of the women's allegations in 2012, but several staffers interviewed told ProPublica that officials seemed more concerned with protecting the institution than getting to the truth. Investigators did not interview multiple people who had been referred as witnesses. They asked few follow-up questions. They did not seek copies of Paul's medical exam.
Anderson's accusers were dismayed when a top Red Cross official praised Anderson in an October 2012 email announcing his departure. David Meltzer, then senior vice president for international services, wrote that he regretted to announce Anderson had "decided to make a change." Meltzer said he was "grateful" to Anderson for his "leadership," lauded him for "two decades of dedication and hard work in furthering the international mission of ARC," and wished him well in his "future endeavors." Meltzer and Anderson are personal friends, according to five people.
A few days later, at a staff meeting, Meltzer, who is now the Red Cross' general counsel, went further. He said he was upset Anderson was leaving and that if it were up to him, Anderson would continue working at the Red Cross, according to three attendees. "It was flabbergasting. If you are a woman sitting in this room, and you have ever been harassed by Jerry Anderson, you've just heard from the VP that he does not believe you or support you," said Amy Gaver, then an official at the Red Cross, who attended the meeting and knew about the allegations.
The Red Cross said in a statement this week that its investigation was a "complete and thorough review of all allegations reported and we found that Mr. Anderson's actions were in direct violation of Red Cross policies and principles. We informed Mr. Anderson that he needed to leave the Red Cross, and he resigned."
But the charity conceded that the "laudatory language used in association with Mr. Anderson's departure was inappropriate and regrettable, given the circumstances." The Red Cross said it recently learned "that a verbal reference given to Save the Children may also have contained similar language. As a result, we are taking appropriate disciplinary action." The Red Cross didn't respond to questions about who was disciplined or how.
The Red Cross said it had apologized to Save the Children. "In the future, we are committed to greater due diligence with regard to these types of communications," the charity wrote in the statement.
Connecticut-based Save the Children said it learned of the circumstances surrounding Anderson's departure from the Red Cross only last week when contacted by ProPublica. The group said in a statement it has placed Anderson on administrative leave while it looks into the situation. It added there have been no allegations of misconduct against Anderson during his time at Save the Children.
Moved by the stories of sexual misconduct dominating the news late last year, Paul reached out to ProPublica. In an interview in the living room of her small house outside downtown Asheville, North Carolina, Paul unflinchingly told her story over the course of three hours. The Red Cross' handling of her case, she said, had left her disillusioned. "Their mission was to help the most vulnerable," she said. "The whole experience felt like they were so busy covering their asses they didn't have any concern about me."
In 2009, Camille Herland, then 23, moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from Dartmouth College and joined the Red Cross as Anderson's assistant. Anderson, then 44 and head of the tsunami program, was a veteran globe-trotting Red Crosser, single and known to be approachable by younger staff.
Herland says he tested the bounds of their relationship from the start — asking to meet at his apartment and complaining about his dating life.
The situation escalated in August 2010 when several Red Cross employees, including Herland and Anderson, attended a colleague's wedding one weekend in New York City. Herland had just accepted a longed-for new position in a different part of the Red Cross' international department, but at the time of the wedding she was still Anderson's subordinate.
"He had been drinking. At some point during the dancing, he came and forcibly cut into the dance and backed me into a corner, and told me he had feelings for me. He took credit for having gotten me this new job, and said it was so we could be together," Herland recalled to ProPublica recently. "He was very insistent that I needed to go to his hotel room with him so we could talk about our relationship in private."
Herland declined in "no uncertain terms." He gave her his hotel room number. Then he started to cry, she said. Herland was shaken.
The next morning he started to send text messages. He told her she was breaking his heart. He begged her to "give their relationship a chance."
When the workweek began again, Anderson was not in the office. As Herland listened to her coworkers wonder where Anderson was, she was receiving a stream of texts and emails from him to both her work and personal accounts. He demanded to know if she had slept with other people at the wedding. "The end goal was always that I come to his apartment so we could talk about it," she said.
She repeatedly told Anderson she wasn't interested. She said she later deleted the messages because they were upsetting and, according to a contemporaneous email reviewed by ProPublica, Anderson asked her to.
Herland didn't report Anderson to Red Cross management because she feared she would lose her job. "I was trying to live in D.C. with no savings account and student loans and I was getting these emails on my work account from my boss who was suggesting I was a slut and asking all these inappropriate questions."
Eventually the emails stopped. But a year later, she received a surprise package to her home, saying she had received a fully paid membership to the Smithsonian. She called to ask where it had come from. The museum told her Gerald Anderson.
"That was very upsetting to me because I didn't remember having given him my address," she said. She tried to return the envelope to him. He became emotional and refused to take it back. "I said 'I can't have you buying me expensive gifts,' and he said he thought this was an activity we could do together."
She continued to talk with him a little bit after that. She asked him to provide a letter of recommendation for graduate school because he had been her highest-ranking boss. She wrote it herself and he signed.
Then her friend and Red Cross colleague Eliza Paul told her a story about an incident involving an unnamed "bad guy" at the charity. Herland guessed the identity of the man involved. Paul, surprised, confirmed it: Jerry Anderson.
Eliza Paul had moved to Washington in 2008 after studying international affairs at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. At 23, she was hired for a temporary position at the Red Cross as part of the surge after the Haiti earthquake, and was eventually promoted to a permanent program assistant role at the charity's headquarters.
Paul had seen Anderson around the office but the two had never formally met. That changed on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. That day after work, a few dozen Red Cross staffers went to happy hour at the Black Rooster Pub, an unpretentious place nearby. Paul started talking with Anderson as the group dwindled down. She was drinking whiskey and remembers him laughing at her jokes and thinking, "That's so cool — maybe this is a good thing for my career."
Paul recalls being tipsy and planning to take a cab home. She went to the bathroom and checked her phone; it was 8:30 p.m.
The next thing Paul remembers is waking up early in the morning, naked, in an unfamiliar bed. Anderson, she says, was on top of her.
"I saw he didn't have a condom, and all I could think to say was, 'No, you don't have a condom.' He stopped and he laughed and he said, 'It didn't bother you last night,'" Paul said.
Paul asked if they had had sex. "He said, 'Yeah, you were really into it. It was all your idea. We left the bar and you pushed me into a cab and said, 'I'm coming home with you.'"