Representative Diana DeGette has revealed a past episode of sexual harassment against her, detailing an unwanted physical advance in an elevator by ex-San Diego mayor Bob Filner when he was a congressman. This disclosure, made in a November 20 interview on view below, makes DeGette the highest-profile Colorado politician to go public with disgusting tales of unwanted contact and more since early October, when shocking tales about allegedly criminal behavior by disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein unleashed a slew of accusations against powerful men, including retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
In the aforementioned interview, aired by MSNBC, DeGette told host Katy Tur: "Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me, and I pushed him away."
DeGette added: "Of course, some years later, [Filner] left Congress, became mayor of San Diego and then he had to leave that position for harassing younger women."
Indeed, Filner stepped down as San Diego's mayor in 2013, and later that year, he was sentenced to ninety days of home confinement, placed on probation for three years and fined more than $1,000 for assaulting three women who worked for him.
Not that Filner was the only person to have subjected DeGette to such appalling treatment. "When I was a young congresswoman, I was at a diplomatic dinner and one of the French diplomats tried to put his hand up my dress," she told Tur, adding, "You can imagine the shock when you’re sitting at a dinner like that."
Here's the complete interview:
The Weinstein effect is also being felt at the Colorado Statehouse, as detailed in a dispiriting Denver Postroundup published earlier this week. Here's a list of the local lawmakers accused to date.
Representative Steve Lebsock: Fellow rep Faith Winter and lobbyist Holly Tarry have filed formal complaints against the Thornton Democrat and state treasurer candidate, and two other women have related similar experiences — like, for instance, Lebsock allegedly asking for sex and unfastening a button on an accuser's blouse.
Senator Randy Baumgardner: A onetime intern says the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican made inappropriate sexual remarks to her and tried to get her to drink with him in his office.
Senator Jack Tate: The Centennial Republican allegedly engaged in suggestive commentary with another intern while also implying that he could aid her career-wise.
Representative Paul Rosenthal: The Democrat from House District 9 is the focus of two separate accusations. An aide says the rep tried to arrange a date with the brother of a former aide in the context of career-help promises, and a man maintains that Rosenthal groped him at a 2012 campaign event.
All four legislators have denied wrongdoing — but the stories don't end there. The Post notes that both Representative Daneya Esgar and Representative Susan Lontine have talked about being harassed and touched inappropriately, albeit without naming names.
DeGette's decision to speak out is likely to inspire even more individuals in Colorado politics and beyond to do likewise — because unfortunately, the sort of repulsive behavior now being dragged into the light isn't exactly in short supply.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.