Rep. Martha McSally, a leading GOP Senate candidate in Arizona, says she was sexually abused in high school
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a leading candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), tells The Wall Street Journal that she was sexually abused by a track coach during her senior year in high school, and that the experience helped shape her life choices. McSally, 52, said that she had taken up running to "escape from the grief of losing my dad" in middle school, and at St. Mary Academy-Bay View, an all-girl Catholic high school in Rhode Island, she placed her trust in a male coach who pressured her into having sex with him.
"It took a while for me to come to a place where I understood what the hell I had been through," McSally told the Journal. "I now understand — like many girls and boys who are abused by people in authority over them — there's a lot of fear and manipulation and shame." The sexual relationship wasn't physically coerced, she added, but "it certainly was an emotional manipulation." McSally said she ramped up her running to shut down her menstrual cycle, because "I was freaking out that he would get me pregnant."
McSally said she chose to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado in part "to get away from him," and she pushed herself in other ways because of the ordeal. She told her family 10 years after the experience, and Rich Robinson, who volunteered at an Arizona Air Force base chapel when McSally was stationed there, told the Journal that she had told him about the alleged abuse by her coach, "and others," in 1994. (McSally also told the Journal she had "similar, awful experiences in the military on the spectrum of abuse of power and sexual assault.") The Journal identified the coach in question, who denied ever having sex with McSally. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber
About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men who work for a large federal agency say they have been sexually harassed on the job. And if they wish to formally accuse their harasser and pursue some sort of consequences, they must make their claim quickly and then settle in for a long, difficult adjudication process that will likely stretch on for several years.
In one case highlighted by The Washington Post, a Justice Department attorney named Christy McCormick spent seven years securing a recommendation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for her harassment complaint against two male supervisors. The EEOC found in her favor, but nine years after the harassment happened, she has yet to receive back pay or damages. "I almost gave up numerous times," she said of the process. "They push you so hard to give up."
After experiencing harassment, federal workers must file a claim within 45 days (private sector employees often have up to 300 days). Then they must go through an EEOC probe, which takes 1,300 days (just over three and a half years) on average, a delay that also has serious negative consequences for the falsely accused. When the EEOC does reach a conclusion, it "can only recommend that a harasser be disciplined or fired," the Post reports. "It cannot order action, and agencies are not required to report whether they took any."
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) says she will not step down over her handling of her former chief of staff's confirmed harassment and alleged abuse of another staff member.
The chief of staff, Tony Baker, is accused of physically abusing Anna Kain, an Esty aide he once dated. Baker left a voicemail message for Kain telling her, "You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you." She has also alleged in a sworn affidavit he punched her, verbally abused her, and otherwise sexually harassed her. She obtained a restraining order against him and filed a police report alleging felony threats.
Esty was informed of the situation within a week but did not dismiss Baker for three months. When he left, he received $5,000 in severance pay and a positive recommendation from Esty that helped him land a position with Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control advocacy group.
Esty is now under considerable pressure to resign including from within her own party. "The congresswoman failed her staff on every level when she decided to protect an alleged abuser instead of them," said State Sen. Mae Flexer, a leading Democrat in the Connecticut Senate, in a statement Saturday. "It's completely unacceptable. Her failure to do the right thing here hurt us all, especially as more and more women are courageously coming forward. It's time for Rep. Esty to step aside."
Update, 6:12 p.m. ET: On Monday evening, Esty announced on her Facebook page that she will not seek re-election. "It is one of the greatest honors of my life that the people of Connecticut's Fifth District elected me to represent them in Congress," she said. "However, I have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek re-election." Bonnie Kristian
All 22 female senators sign letter pressuring McConnell, Schumer to advance sexual harassment legislation
All 22 women in the Senate — Democrats and Republicans alike — have come together to skewer the chamber's "inaction" on sexual harassment legislation, CNN reports. "We write to express our deep disappointment that the Senate has failed to enact meaningful reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995," the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says. "We urge you to bring before the full Senate legislation that would update and strengthen the procedures available to survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination in congressional workplaces."
The legislation would require in part for lawmakers to personally pay settlements after reports that some politicians were using taxpayer dollars as hush money.
The recent spending bill, likely the last major legislation of the year, was seen as a final opportunity to get something done about harassment reforms in Congress. The legislation did not ultimately make it in the omnibus package.
"We are going to get something done," said Schumer last week. "It's a very important issue and we're going to get something done in the next little while." Jeva Lange
The head of the U.S. Forest Service, Tony Tooke, announced his resignation on Wednesday, effective immediately, amid an internal investigation into sexual misconduct claims, PBS NewsHour reports. The allegations against Tooke include that he had relationships with subordinates before he was elevated to chief last September, but a NewsHour investigation also uncovered a wider culture of sexual harassment and assault at the Forest Service, and retaliation against those employees who reported their harassment.
"I have decided that what is needed right now is for me to step down as Forest Service Chief and make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency," Tooke said in an email to employees. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he had accepted Tooke's resignation, thanking Tooke for his four decades of service at the agency but saying in his experience, "in order to effectively lead any organization, you must have the moral authority to inspire its members to work toward the goal of continuous improvement." Peter Weber
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) said that due to the #MeToo movement, she will no longer be doling out her signature hugs to constituents and colleagues. "I do have concerns now that a pat on the shoulder might be taken the wrong way," Ernst told the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa.
Ernst described herself as "a big hugger" but said that she has "given pause to that now." She was the first ever female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, and has spoken publicly about the harassment she faced there, including unsolicited "comments, passes, things like that." In a statement on her website, Ernst calls sexual assault "a horrendous crime," adding: "We won't tolerate it in gyms, we won't tolerate it on college campuses, and we won't tolerate it in the military. Period." She also teamed up with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to sponsor a bill aimed at reforming how Congress addresses sexual harassment.
In further comments to the paper, Ernst said the #MeToo movement is "unfortunate in some aspects" because "I don't want to be accused of hugging somebody who didn't want a hug." She added, though, that overall the #MeToo movement has been "very important."
"It is raising awareness, I think, with a lot of women out there that maybe they were afraid to say something," Ernst told the Daily Times Herald. "Now, it's okay to say something." Jeva Lange
The Las Vegas Review-Journal killed reports about casino mogul Steve Wynn's sexual misconduct in 1998
Casino mogul Steve Wynn, 76, allegedly engaged in a "decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct," The Wall Street Journal wrote last month, with its report leading to Wynn's resignation as the Republican National Committee finance chair. On Monday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal admitted that it also worked on a story about Wynn's sexual misconduct, but kept it from being published … in 1998.
"After killing the article, the newspaper ordered the reporter who wrote it to delete it from the newspaper's computer system," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. But "I always wanted to tell these women's stories," said former courts reporter Carri Geer, who is now the publication's metro editor. "That's why I saved this file for 20 years."
The Review-Journal's 1998 story centered on 11 waitresses at Wynn's Mirage hotel and casino, who brought a lawsuit against their employer after Wynn allegedly told them they did not look good in their uniforms. Some of the women additionally said they were pressured to "accommodate customers sexually," and one server claimed Wynn pressured her into having sex with him after she told him she was a new grandmother.
The report was held after Wynn's lawyers paid for the newspaper to administer lie-detector tests to two of the women accusers. The results indicated that one woman was apparently being truthful, while the second, Cynthia Simmons, failed the test. Simmons had accused Mirage of pressuring her to have sex with customers, and she told the Review-Journal she "was under emotional distress" before the polygraph test. "I couldn't even sleep the night before," she said.
Simmons also expressed her disappointment that the reports about Wynn were silenced by the paper. "I'm shocked anyone thought it was a secret," she said of the allegations. "We all knew this was going on, but nobody spoke up because they were afraid." Jeva Lange
As #MeToo legislation stalls, GOP senator asks, 'Do we really need legislation to get senators to do the right thing?'
#MeToo legislation has apparently stalled in the Senate, where lawmakers are not expressing an urgency to change Congress' standing sexual harassment policies, McClatchy DC reports. "Do we really need legislation to get senators to do the right thing?" asked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. "I would say you probably don't."
Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) resigned late last year after facing credible accusations of harassing and groping women. A number of other sitting congressmen and staff, including most recently Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), have announced retirement or resigned as allegations surfaced.
While Johnson said he doesn't feel "a burning desire" to personally take action to change the standing harassment procedures, there has been movement in the House, where a bill is expected to pass this week that would "hold members personally responsible" and "[increase] transparency." Last November, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced two bills that would address how Congress handles harassment allegations, although Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) seemed doubtful the legislation could pass.
"Finding the floor time to do things is so difficult," he said, even as he works with a bipartisan group to consider changing the rules. "So we'll see." Jeva Lange