- Elise Viebeck The Washington Post
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other leading Democrats are calling on a freshman House lawmaker considered a rising star in the party to resign his seat after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed one of his campaign aides.
In an article published Friday by BuzzFeed, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward his then-campaign finance director. The woman, identified only as Samantha, told BuzzFeed that Kihuen propositioned her for dates and sex and twice touched her thighs without consent.
"In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign. The young woman's documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward," Pelosi said in a statement released early Saturday morning. "In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign."
Earlier, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., the party's campaign chief, said politicians "guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault . . . should not hold elected office."
"Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard," Luján said. "Congressman Kihuen should resign."
Kihuen becomes the latest figure on Capitol Hill whose political future is in doubt because of accusations of misconduct. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the longest-serving member of Congress, is under pressure from House Democratic leaders to resign amid allegations he sexually harassed and mistreated multiple female aides. And Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., came under additional scrutiny Thursday when a fifth woman accused him of inappropriate touching.
Conyers and Franken are under investigation by congressional ethics committees, but it remains unclear whether the allegations will force them from office. Franken has apologized, and his office said Thursday that he never "intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct." Conyers, through his attorney, denied the allegations of harassment and mistreatment altogether Friday.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., a political ally of Kihuen's, said she supports a "full, fair and expedient" investigation into his behavior. She did not call on him to resign.
"Sexual harassment in any context is unacceptable. I am frustrated, disappointed, and disgusted by the stories I have learned from women and men who were harassed and disrespected by powerful men," Cortez Masto said in a statement.
Kihuen, a protege of retired Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., holds a seat previously represented by a Republican, Cresent Hardy.
Asked for a response to the BuzzFeed story, a spokesman for Kihuen did not reply.
"The staff member in question was a valued member of my team," Kihuen said in a statement. "I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women's equality, and I will continue to do so."