Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY (KSL.com) — Tim Ballard, the founder and ex-CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-child sex trafficking organization, pushed back on sexual misconduct allegations as “false” on Tuesday, saying they are intended to hurt his credibility.
The allegations against Ballard — who is the subject of the recent hit film “Sound of Freedom” and a potential U.S. Senate candidate — first surfaced in a report by Vice News on Monday, which details claims of sexual misconduct involving seven anonymous women. Vice reported that Ballard’s departure from Operation Underground Railroad earlier this year came after an investigation into the claims.
According to Vice: “Sources familiar with the situation said that the self-styled anti-slavery activist … invited women to act as his ‘wife’ on undercover overseas missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking. He would then allegedly coerce those women into sharing a bed or showering together, claiming that it was necessary to fool traffickers.”
Ballard vehemently denied the accusations in a new statement released Tuesday through the SPEAR Fund, a separate nonprofit working to “end human trafficking in our time,” for which Ballard has served as a senior adviser since leaving Operation Underground Railroad.
“As with all of the assaults on my character and integrity over many years, the latest tabloid-driven sexual allegations are false. They are baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children,” Ballard said.
“During my time at OUR, I designed strict guidelines for myself and our operators in the field. Sexual contact was prohibited, and I led by example. Given our meticulous attention to this issue, any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is categorically false.”
Operation Underground Railroad, in response to a request for comment on the allegations Tuesday, pointed to Ballard’s June 22 departure from the organization, saying “he has permanently separated from OUR.”
“OUR is dedicated to combating sexual abuse and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization,” the group said in a statement to KSL.com. “OUR retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations, and OUR continues to assess and improve the governance of the organization and protocols for its operations.
“To preserve the integrity of its investigation and to protect the privacy of all persons involved, OUR will not make any further public comment at this time,” the statement continued.
According to Vice, Ballard has been accused of sending at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear and reportedly asked another “how far she was willing to go” to save children. The claims seem to relate to a previously reported letter detailing an internal investigation into Ballard prior to his departure, which Vice reported on in July.
Ballard, who told the Sean Spicer Show he is considering running for Mitt Romney’s Senate seat next year, was recently rebuked in a statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after he allegedly claimed his work was endorsed by President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A statement from the church said the two men, who share the same last name but are not related, had a friendship, but “once it became clear Tim Ballard had betrayed their friendship through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable, President Ballard withdrew his association.”
In a statement Monday, Tim Ballard said he remains a “faithful member in good standing” with the church and called the timing of the church’s statement “highly suspicious … given its close proximity to Mitt Romney’s announcement that he is retiring, and my own public comments that I am prayerfully considering running for public office.”
Romney didn’t announce his retirement but said he would not seek reelection when his term expires in early 2025.
Tim Ballard claimed the church had not “publicly verified” the authenticity of the statement. However, its legitimacy was confirmed independently by KSL.com.