Several days after a New Yorker story revisited Al Franken’s departure from the Senate, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ripped into the Democratic Party at large in Iowa over its handling of sexual assault and harassment.
Gillibrand told a group of women gathered for a week-long conference of female union members in Iowa City Thursday night she’s sick of her fellow Democrats turning a blind eye to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m really sick of it. I’m so freaking sick of it. I can’t tell you how angry I am that Democrats, Democrats turn a blind eye to sexual assault, sexual harassment and any reforms that value women in the workplace,” Gillibrand said. “And they play lip service to women and to women voters, but I promise you, every time the door of a negotiating room closes, women’s reproductive freedom, women’s rights, women’s equality is the first thing that’s thrown out the window to create a compromise, and that is compromise by Democrats and Republicans, both sides of the aisle in Congress.”
She then turned that to a question of which presidential candidate would best actually represent women in office.
“My question to all of you as women, who do you want in the White House?” Gillibrand asked. “Do you want a woman who values you? Do you want a woman who will go to the mat for you every time? Not compromise on your women’s reproductive freedom? Not compromise on your worker’s rights? Not compromise on your ability to go to the workplace and not be sexually harassed?”
And Gillibrand brought up unnamed fellow competitors for the White House as insufficiently supportive of women.
“We have Democratic candidates running for president right now who do not believe necessarily that it’s a good idea that women work outside the home,” she said. “No joke. We have presidential candidates running right now who think the Me Too movement has gone too far. What do you mean by that? Do you mean any woman who has come forward to say she has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted shouldn’t be complaining?”
“What are you saying?” Gillibrand continued. “That any man, especially a powerful man, a well-liked man should be able to grope you in the ass or grope you in the boob or forcibly kiss you? Is that what you believe? We have people who are running for president of the United States as Democrats who believe the standards for the Democratic Party are too high. Really? How would you feel if your child was groped, anywhere on their body? How would you feel if somebody you know and love is forcibly kissed without their consent? I don’t think it would be ok then.”
She finished by asking the female union members who they trust.
“Let me ask you, as women of labor, in one of the biggest most male-dominated industries in the world, let me ask you, who do you want in the Oval Office when that door closes?” Gillibrand asked. “Do you want a champion who has been fierce for women’s rights for over a decade? Or someone who is just getting to the table today? Or maybe someone who will yes you to death and say they believe in women’s rights but really don’t give a shit? Your choice. I’m telling you, I’m the best candidate running for president. I’m the best candidate for you and your voice.”
Gillibrand’s answer came in response to a question about how the senator would try to change the national culture after Donald Trump and create safe workplaces for women. Gillibrand also lamented the number of sexual assaults that still occur in the military and on college campuses, and she mentioned her legislative efforts to fix it.
by Paige Godden
Photo by Julie Fleming