Rep. Jackie Speier Calls for Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training — for Congress

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Peninsula Democrat with a long history of trying to combat sexual misconduct in the military, says it’s time for the House of Representatives to turn its attention to repeated episodes of ugly, harassing behavior among its own members.

Speier introduced a resolution on Tuesday that would require all members of the House and their staff personnel to take sexual harassment training much like that required in the executive branch and for private employers in many states.

Speier took to the floor (see video above) to announce her bill after the latest disclosure of sexual impropriety involving a member of Congress. On Monday, video surfaced showing Louisiana Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, a married father of five, in a passionate kiss with a staff member who is also reportedly married. The surveillance tape was recorded last December, apparently in one of McAllister’s offices, and was published Monday by a chain of local newspapers in his district (see video below).

McAllister campaigned for office on a platform of Christian values in a special election last year. He apologized for his behavior Tuesday:

There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your [sic] a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.

From day one, I’ve always tried to be an honest man. I ran for Congress to make a difference and not to just be another politician. I don’t want to make a political statement on this, I would just simply like to say that I’m very sorry for what I’ve done.

While I realize I serve the public, I would appreciate the privacy given to my children as we get through this.

In her floor remarks, Speier said McAllister’s behavior is the latest incident to demonstrate a need for a higher standard of conduct in the House. In the wake of high-profile incidents of misconduct involving former Democratic Reps. Anthony Wiener of New York and Bob Filner of San Diego, she went out of her way to say the issue is not partisan:

This is the Congress of the United States of America. This is the House of Representatives of the United States of America. This is not a frat house.

Regrettably this week, another one of our colleagues was discovered engaged in inappropriate action with one of his staff. This is not the first time, it will probably not be the last time. It happens on the Republican side, it happens on the Democratic side. That doesn’t make it OK.

… It is time for us to recognize we have a problem. It is not OK to fondle a staff member. It is not OK to make suggestive comments to a staff member. It is not OK to have provocative pictures on your computer. It is just not OK to conduct ourselves in that manner.

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  • Nelson

    The V.A. has annual mandatory training for sexual harassment. Why not Congress?

  • edwardtlp

    I agree. I would much rather have my congress critter spending all his time in sexual harassment training than in passing new laws!

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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