Second accuser renews calls for congressman’s resignation
WASHINGTON — Facing a fresh accusation of sexual misconduct in a Congress that has become increasingly less tolerant, a Nevada lawmaker is facing pressure from Democratic leadership to step aside.
The Nevada Independent reported new allegations by a lobbyist who said Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen on several occasions touched her thighs and buttocks while he was a state senator, and made repeated sexual advances during the course of the 2015 legislative session. The accusations came less than two weeks after a former staffer said Kihuen harassed her during his 2016 congressional campaign.
Kihuen’s office on Thursday sent a statement saying the lawmaker wouldn’t discuss any details of the relationships he’s had with women while in elected office.
“During my 10 years in the legislature, I dated several different women. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t discuss my communications or any other details of those relationships,” the statement read.
But as sexual harassment and misconduct allegations continue to rock Capitol Hill, Democratic leadership has taken a strong stance on the issue, and called for Kihuen to resign.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday said Kihuen should step down. She was echoing her previous statement, released the day after the first account of sexual harassment was made public.
“I’ve asked him to resign from the start,” Pelosi told reporters. She initially wrote that “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.”
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, has also called for Kihuen to step down. But other Democrats have stopped short of calling for such drastic measures, including Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
Kihuen is among a growing number of lawmakers whose political careers have been thrust into uncertainty or ended altogether by allegations of sexual misconduct.
Last week, three lawmakers announced their departures from Capitol Hill after facing accusations of inappropriate behavior, including Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Each had faced an ethics investigation.
On Thursday, embattled Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, who settled an $84,000 sexual harassment lawsuit with his former communications director in 2015, said he will not run for re-election after the House Ethics Committee announced it would conduct an investigation. In recent days, former staffers also shared accounts of a toxic work environment in which Farenthold berated and bullied staffers.