Leslie Branch-Wise has largely stayed out of the media spotlight since accusing Mayor Michael Hancock of sexual harassment in early 2018. But the Denver police detective spoke before news cameras today, May 29, six days ahead of the June 4 runoff election, to accuse Hancock of lying.
"I look at [Hancock] as a pitiful, desperate liar," Branch-Wise said during the press conference, which was held at the Jamie Giellis mayoral campaign headquarters. Branch-Wise also endorsed Giellis in her race against Hancock.
Branch-Wise said she hadn't planned on speaking publicly about the mayoral race until she heard Hancock's response to a question about the sexually suggestive text messages the mayor had sent to her when she was part of his security detail in 2012. During a May 28 debate at the Denver Press Club, moderator and Denver Post reporter Andy Kenney asked Hancock to explain why the text messages he sent to Branch-Wise shouldn't be described as sexual harassment.
"The reason why I said it was never sexual harassment is because you don't see the back-and-forth conversation that occurred," Hancock responded.
Branch-Wise described those comments as the "tipping point" that led her to come out against him in the runoff. While endorsing Giellis for mayor, Branch-Wise added, "She does appear to understand what I went through."
Marijuana Deals Near You
Branch-Wise also called on Hancock to release any inappropriate texts from her that he has, which she says don't actually exist. "There was nothing that I sent that was inappropriate," she said. "It's clear to me that the mayor is telling blatant additional lies."
Branch-Wise revealed during the press conference that she was asked by someone not to name Hancock when she filed a complaint about sexual harassment. When pressed by a reporter to name that person, Branch-Wise declined.
Before the press conference began, Hancock's campaign apologized for his comments at the debate. "I misspoke last night in a heated debate, and I want to apologize. The most important thing in all of this is that my behavior seven years ago was unacceptable and inappropriate. There is no justification for it, and it's something I am deeply sorry for."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In the same statement, Hancock noted that Branch-Wise signed a sworn affidavit saying that she did not feel the text messages were inappropriate. She responded to that allegation during the press conference by insinuating that her attorneys at the time told her to do so. "I did what I was asked to do," she said.
Both mayoral candidates have had a difficult last few weeks. Along with a renewed interest in the sexual-harassment allegations sparked by Hancock's comment, Branch-Wise alleged that he used the N-word in a text to her, which the mayor has said he doesn't remember sending.
Giellis has been accused of being racially insensitive after she didn't know what the letters in the NAACP acronym stood for and a decade-old tweet surfaced in which she questioned the need for Chinatowns.
Giellis acknowledged the mud-slinging at the press conference. Of the runoff, she said, "I think it's gotten away from focusing on the real issues."