Politics

Female Democratic Senators Share Harassment Stories

Part of the #MeToo campaign incited by Harvey Weinstein scandal

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was one of four senators who spoke about her experiences being sexually harassed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Four female Democratic senators described their experiences being sexually harassed as part of the #MeToo campaign to highlight how common it is for women.

Democrats Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii all spoke to “Meet the Press” about their experiences.

The #MeToo campaign started more than a decade ago with a New York gender equality activist but has caught fire in the wake of the scandal around allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

All four women are up for re-election in 2018, with McCaskill and Heitkamp being considered two of the most vulnerable.

McCaskill described her experience as a young state legislator asking the state speaker of the house if he had any advice about advancing legislation and him responding by saying, “Did you bring your kneepads?”

“I do think he was joking, but it was shocking that he would make that joke to a colleague,” she said.

Hirono, who has kidney cancer, said she had been propositioned by teachers and colleagues.

“Statements that are made, observations about our appearance, these kinds of unwanted attention occurs in a situation where there is an uneven power,” she said. “And it’s usually the woman who has less power.”

Heitkamp spoke about her time as North Dakota’s attorney general, speaking at an event about domestic violence, when a law enforcement official pointed his finger at her and said men will never stop beating their wives.

“You know, you might be right. I hope you’re not right, but we shouldn’t live in a world where we don’t try,” she recalled responding.

Warren spoke about when she was first starting as a law school professor and an older colleague invited her to his office and lunged at her.

“He’s chasing me around the desk trying to get his hands on me and I kept saying, ‘You don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do this, I have little children at home,’” Warren recalled. “And at the same time what was flickering through my brain was, ‘If he gets hold of me, I’m going to punch him right in the face.’”

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