Sasha Georgiades is a U.S. Navy veteran. She was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and deployed with the 7th Fleet to the waters of eastern Asia. In the fall of 2020, she joined the staff of Rep. Katie Porter (D–Calif.) as a Wounded Warrior Fellow, working on outreach and assistance to service members.
Her fellowship technically ended in August of 2022; in reality, things came to an abrupt halt several weeks earlier, on July 9, when Porter retaliated against Georgiades for allegedly giving her COVID-19.
On Thursday, screenshots of text messages that purport to show Porter demoting Georgiades to remote employment surfaced on Twitter. Georgiades confirmed the authenticity of these screenshots in an exclusive interview with Reason.
"[Porter] never spoke a word to me after this," says Goergiades, who now works as a consultant.
According to Georgiades, the "office protocol on testing" that Porter claimed she violated was failing to take a COVID-19 test the instant she felt even slightly unwell. Georgiades maintains an active lifestyle—she goes to the gym almost every day—and says that at first, she thought she was just sore from exercise.
"At the time I felt okay, just sore as if had worked out too hard," she says. "It was hard to differentiate until the next morning and as soon as I felt sick I took a test, told the district director I had it, and stayed home."
Nevertheless, Porter contracted COVID-19 around that same time, and blamed Georgiades. The representative, a single mother, was especially angry about arranging for someone to take care of her children while she was sick, and lamented in the text messages that "my children have nobody to care for them." (According to Georgiades, Porter's calendar said she was supposed to be in Washington, D.C., that week, anyway. Her three children live in her California district.)
Porter's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Georgiades apologized profusely for potentially exposing Porter, but to no avail. She was instructed never to return to the office and completed the rest of the fellowship remotely. In the text messages, Porter noted that she had avoided contracting COVID-19 for the first two years of the pandemic and suggested she would have continued the streak if only Georgiades had followed the rules.
Porter is far from the first member of Congress to face accusations of mistreating her staff, but the COVID-19 angle is notable. How many lawmakers operate under the outdated assumption that the coronavirus is totally avoidable if only everyone practices extreme caution at all times?
"If she thought she was going to go the rest of her life without it, that's impossible," says Georgiades.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.