Tuesday, November 21, 2017
In Last Year, 40 Lawmakers in 20 States Publicly Accused by 100 People of Sexual Misconduct or Harassment
Since last year, at least 40 lawmakers – nearly all men – in 20 states have been publicly accused by more than 100 people of some form of sexual misconduct or harassment, a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found.
The total, which doesn’t include confidential or anonymous complaints or government staffers who have been accused of sexual misdeeds, reflects unprecedented levels of scrutiny on statehouses across the country.
Swift action has been taken against high-profile men, including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and others accused of sexual harassment. There have been varying degrees of punishment for lawmakers.
Two weeks ago, Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned from his leadership position amid growing pressure over a report that he settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a staff member.
Florida's Senate president earlier this month ordered an investigation into allegations that Sen. Jack Latvala, who is running for governor, made inappropriate comments or touched six women. Latvala has denied the claims.
Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Lovell, a freshman Tennessee lawmaker, resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. The resignation followed last year's expulsion of former Rep. Jeremy Durham, who had inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, according to an attorney general's investigation.The ways lawmakers have handled sexual harassment and assault allegations has left some experts looking for change.
“The consequence must fit the transgression,” said Jennifer A. Drobac, an Indiana University law professor and expert on sexual harassment cases. “You have to withdraw the privileges, kick them out of Congress or out of the statehouse. Take away the privileges of their employ and their health care benefits.”
Debbie Dougherty, a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri who has written several reports on sexual harassment, said the latest wave of sexual harassment allegations against powerful men follows a slow but steady stream of similar accusations against officials at FOX News, Uber and the National Park Service.
“It’s like a stone rolling downhill. You see some and then you see some more and then you see a lot,” said Dougherty.
“The problem has been ignored and minimized for so, so many years that I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”