FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi faces a challenge to her job as frustrated House Democrats meet to select a new slate of leaders. Pelosi is likely to be re-elected easily Nov. 30 despite disenchantment among the Democratic caucus she has led since 2002. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, file) (Credit: AP)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is calling for the resignation of Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada after he was accused of sexually harassing a former aide who had worked on his election campaign.
“In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign,” Pelosisaid in a statement on Saturday. “Across the nation, in every industry, brave women are coming forward to share stories of harassment that must be heard.”
The statement continued, “In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign. The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward.”
On Friday afternoon the allegations against Kihuen were first reported by Buzzfeed. A woman who worked as a finance director for Kiheun’s 2016 congressional campaign accused the now-congressman of making repeated, unsolicited, sexual advances. In the story, the woman is referred to only as Samantha in order to protect her last name which was at her request.
Samantha, who was 25 at the time, began working for Kihuen’s campaign early on but had abruptly quit by April 2016. She said Kihuen made propositions for the two do go on dates and have sex, even after she repeatedly rejected him, Buzzfeed reported. She alleged that there were two occasions in which he touched her thighs without her consent.
A statement from Kihuen’s office on Friday said, “The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”
“I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect,” the statement continued. “I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.”
Kihuen then added to his statement to “make it clear that I don’t recall any of the circumstances” Samantha described, after the story was published.
Pelosi’s call for resignation is significant considering she’s the top House Democrat, and it followed pressure placed on Kihuen from DCCC chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who also said the congressman should resign.
“Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign,” he told Buzzfeed.
Recently, Pelosi also called for the resignation of Rep. John Conyers of Michigan after facing allegations from several women who claimed he engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct. While Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been accused of groping as well as sexual misconduct, there have been no explicit calls for him to step down from party leadership as of yet.
The news comes as a wave of women have stepped forward and shared their experiences of alleged sexual harassment perpetrated by powerful men across the country, whether it’s in Hollywood, the media, or the halls of U.S. Congress. (Salon)