Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has expanded the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal with the kickoff Friday of #MeTooCongress — and a video recounting her own experience on Capitol Hill.
While working as a congressional staffer in her early 20s, Speier said, she was grabbed by the chief of staff of a California legislator who “held my face, kissed me — and stuck his tongue in my mouth,” she said in the video posted on Twitter and YouTube.
“I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep down inside. I know what it’s like to lie awake in bed at night wondering if I was the one who had done something wrong,” Speier said in the video. “I know what it’s like years later to remember that rush of humiliation and anger.”
The San Francisco Bay Area congresswoman said she hoped her message would encourage other current and former legislators and staffers to come forward to reveal harassment in Congress, which she called “a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long.”
“There is nothing to fear in telling the truth,” Speier said. “And it’s time to throw back the curtain on the repulsive behavior that until now has thrived in the dark without consequences.”
NBC reached out last week to all 21 female U.S. senators for a “Meet the Press” segment on the issue. Four senators stepped forward with their experiences of sexual harassment. None of their stories, however, involved behavior in Congress, but rather in other workplaces. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) talked about being chased around a desk by a colleague when she was a law professor. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said when she queried a senior member of the Missouri General Assembly about how to get a piece of legislation out of committee, he asked if she had “brought her kneepads,” implying she’d have to provide oral sex.
In 2014, Speier introduced legislation mandating anti-harassment training for all House members and staffers. The bill didn’t pass, and the training remains optional in Congress. She also intends next month to introduce a bill to reform the congressional Office of Compliance that deals with harassment complaints and that has been criticized for doing little to stem the problem.
Speier didn’t reveal the identity of the man she accuses of harassment on her video, but she told ABC News that it was Joe Holsinger, chief of staff for former Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.). Holsinger died in 2004; Ryan died in 1978. Speier currently represents Ryan’s old district.