House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for a fellow Democrat to resign after allegations surfaced that the freshman lawmaker sexually harassed a staffer during his campaign.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., is accused of making repeated unwanted sexual advances toward his then-finance director who was identified only as Samantha in an article published by BuzzFeed News on Friday. According to the report, the woman worked for Kihuen between December 2015 and April 2016.
During that time, according to the report, then-candidate Kihuen on two occasions touched her thighs without consent and “propositioned her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections.”
On one occasion in February 2016, after attending a fundraiser, the woman says, Kihuen followed her to her car and told her: ” ‘You look really good, I’d like to take you out if you didn’t work for me.’ ”
Pelosi has issued a statement calling for Kihuen to step down.
“Across the nation, in every industry, brave women are coming forward to share stories of harassment that must be heard.
“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.
“In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
The BuzzFeed report goes on to say the woman was not sure how to report the uncomfortable interactions with Kihuen but did speak to a midlevel staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to let him know why she was abruptly quitting the campaign.
Kihuen won the Democratic primary and defeat Republican incumbent Cresent Hardy last year to become the first Latino elected to the House of Representatives from Nevada, according to his biography on his congressional website.
The first-term congressman released a statement to BuzzFeed News on Friday, saying he takes the “matter seriously and is not indicative of who I am.”
“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.”
Kihuen’s office has not responded to NPR’s request for comment.
Contacted by NPR, the DCCC echoed Pelosi. “Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard,” Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., said in a statement. “If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
The allegations leveled at Kihuen come as a wave of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment allegations have engulfed powerful men in industries from entertainment to business to media — including NPR — and in Congress.
Earlier this week Pelosi, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, called on Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to resign.
Conyers, the most senior member of Congress and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is facing mounting pressure to resign after multiple women have come forward accusing him of sexual harassment, including a former staffer Marion Brown who received a $27,000 payment not to discuss details of his alleged misconduct. She spoke about Conyers earlier this week on NBC’s Today show.
Conyers, who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, has stepped down from his post as ranking member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, but remains in office. He was hospitalized in Michigan because of stress this week, according to his lawyer.
Across the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee confirmed Thursday that it has opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations regarding Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Franken is accused of groping multiple women. In a recent interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Franken said that he was ashamed of his actions, but that he would not leave office.
“I’m going to take responsibility. I’m going to be held accountable, and I’m going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this,” Franken said.