Try as they might, leaders of the embattled Labour Party just can’t seem to put their troubles with veteran MP Trond Giske behind them. Now Giske’s celebrity wife has ripped open wounds around the sexual harassment complaints filed against her husband, just when the party badly wanted to concentrate on politics at the opening of Parliament.
Giske, long a powerful man in Labour, had to resign as deputy leader of the party following complaints from various women about his behaviour. The complaints were filed during the height of the “me-too” campaign against sexual harassment two years ago. Other Labour leaders later concluded that Giske had violated the party’s guidelines regarding sexual harassment.
Giske remains a Member of Parliament but has largely been stripped of other powerful positions within the party. Now his wife Haddy Njie, who’s long worked as a program leader on several TV productions, has written a book about the period from late 2017 to early 2018 when complaints filed against Giske became known and he ultimately lost the biggest battle of his political career. Njie defends Giske, joins him in rejecting claims he was guilty of sexual harassment and reveals in her new book that the couple was advised to file suit against the Labour Party. Then the party would need to provide evidence that sexual harassment occurred. Giske apologized to the women who complained, but also has characterized their complaints as “groundless and false.”
The couple opted against suing Labour but clearly remain bitter about Giske’s fall from grace and feel their side of the story hasn’t been fully told. Thus the book, which Njie promoted on state broadcaster NRK’s Lindmo TV talk show late last week.
The book and Njie’s appearance on Lindmo have set off a new stream of complaints from some of the women who initially complained about Giske’s behaviour. “Haddy Njie is calling me a liar,” responded one of the women who went public with her complaint, Labour politician Lina Oma who was recently elected to the Oslo City Council. Oma accused Njie of also using her own celebrity, power and influence to undermine young women bold enough to file complaints against powerful men.
Njie also drew fire from another young woman who complained and had reluctantly gone public, Sunniva Andreassen. She gave Oma her full support, as did Anette Trettebergstuen and Hadia Tajik, both Members of Parliament for Labour. “Those complaining were believed, and I have full faith in the evaluations that were made against Giske two years ago,” Trettebergstuen wrote in a text message to newspaper Dagsavisen.
Trettebergstuen wrote that she can understand that the case has been difficult for Njie, too. Njie has claimed that the women who have complained about her husband “must tolerate being challenged.” Others including Oma fear her book will make if more difficult for other women to come forward with complaints against powerful men. Oma went so far as to say that the book and Njie’s appearance on national TV made her feel that she was being harassed all over again.
They all seem to agree that Giske, as he admitted himself, wasn’t completely conscious of the power he had or the impression he made on others. He reportedly had trouble separating his political position from his personal life.
Commentators, meanwhile, have repeatedly suggested that the drama around Giske stems from a tough power struggle within the Labour Party. After many years as a high-ranking politician and government minister for Labour, Giske’s problems seemed to take off after he made it clear he wanted to beome the party’s finance policy spokesperson after the party’s lost the national election again in 2017. Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre ended up allowing Giske to replace MP Marianne Mathinsen in the role, much to her disappointment.
At the same time, reports about Giske as a minister who enjoyed partying had circulated for years. Njie wrote that Tajik, who was co-deputy leader of Labour along with Giske, worked behind the scenes to create unease around Giske’s new role as finance policy spokesman. Party Secretary Kjersti Stenseng, an ally of Giske’s, is cited in Njie’s book as claiming that Tajik was behind several of the complaints against Giske. Ironically enough, Tajik herself was recently named as Labour’s new finance policy spokesperson and she has retained her role as deputy party leader.
Both Støre and Tajik have tried to shake off the latest storm around Giske, stirred up by his wife. “I haven’t read the book,” Støre told newspaper Aftenposten and other media last week, “and therefore have no comment on the concrete claims. But I understand that Haddy Njie wants to get out her version of the case and the effect it has had for the family. Beyond that we are finished with the case.”
Tajik also claimed she hadn’t read the book, adding in a message to Dagsavisen that “Jonas (Støre) and Kjersti (Stenseng) have together concluded that Trond Giske has repeatedly violated the Labour Party’s guidelines against sexual harassment. I support Jonas and Kjersti in that conclusion.” She added that she thinks Njie has published “inaccurate claims” that she was working behind the scenes to cause trouble around Giske. Tajik akso expressed support for Oma.
On Monday news bureau NTB reported that filmaker Håvard Bustnes is in the process of making a documentary film about Giske, as Njie’s book makes the rounds. That further suggests that the storm around Giske, who retains his seat in Parliament, is far from over.