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Ex-state NAACP leader denies harassment allegations in suit

RALEIGH, N.C. – A former North Carolina NAACP leader accused of sexually harassing an employee has issued a statement denying the allegations, saying a lawsuit brought by the woman is “"baseless."

The Rev. Curtis Gatewood issued a statement Monday referring to the suit filed earlier in the month as a “baseless, frivolous, and outrageously nonfactual lawsuit.” The statement said he felt the need to respond to the “high profile and continuous spreading of false allegations, false narratives, and character assassination.”

In the suit filed in Durham County, Jazmyne Childs is seeking at least $15 million for emotional and mental distress. She said Gatewood harassed her over a period of months in 2017, including pressing himself against her on one occasion and another time “looking her up and down in a sexual and intimidating manner."

Gatewood was interim field director and managed the state conference NAACP staff in 2017. Childs was youth and college field secretary for the state conference.

The lawsuit also names the national NAACP as a defendant. The lawsuit said that the national NAACP didn't take action after it received a report from an outside investigator in October 2017 that concluded that Gatewood had harassed Childs. A spokesman for the national NAACP organization didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

An attorney for Childs, Geeta Kapur, declined to comment Tuesday on Gatewood's statement, citing the pending litigation.

Before filing the lawsuit, Childs had disclosed allegations of harassment against Gatewood at a news conference in September, saying she had written letters to the national president of the NAACP but had gotten no response. Gatewood's NAACP membership was suspended by the national organization the next day.

While he flatly denied the allegations in his latest statement, Gatewood said in an October email that while he never intentionally harassed anyone, he realized his actions “may have been received as sexual.”