Female journos fight back as Kirsten Gillibrand is derided over Senate sex harassment claims
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said this week that she has been the subject of many instances of sexual harassment and unwelcome, gendered critiques of her weight and appearance by Senate colleagues.
Since Gillibrand came forward with the revelations, multiple Capitol Hill pundits, reporters and staffers have tried to discredit her. However, according to Think Progress, some woman journalists have come forward to corroborate Gillibrand’s claims and report that they, too, have been hassled and harassed by men in the U.S. Senate.
The mostly male pile-on questioning Gillibrand’s truthfulness began almost immediately after she made the revelations on Wednesday, saying that fellow elected representatives had called her “porky” and “chubby” when she gained weight after her pregnancy, among other unwelcome remarks and criticisms.
Politico’s senior congressional reporter, John Bresnahan, tweeted, “I challenge this story. I don’t believe it.”
Alice Ollstein at Think Progress noted that Bresnahan was joined by the New York Times‘ Nick Confessore, who said on Twitter that if Gillibrand was going to make the allegations public, then she should name names.
“Shouldn’t Gillibrand name these Senate guys who fat-shamed her? Doesn’t she kind of have a responsibility to name them?” he asked.
On Friday, Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough (FL) said that Gillibrand is “weak” for not revealing the names of her colleagues in the Senate.
“I noticed other reporters were talking about present-day Washington and saying they agree with Kirsten, that they have been spoken to this way as well,” opined Brzezinski. “No one is naming names. And I think that’s actually, that’s weak.”
“I think it’s weak too,” agreed Scarborough.
However, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell backed Gillibrand up, saying on Thursday that the Senate is “the oldest white male club in the world.”
“We all had our stories of whom you’d not get in an elevator with and whom you’d protect your young female interns from,” Mitchell said.
CNN’s chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash said, “After I had my son three years ago, I got some comments that would maybe just blow you away from male senators.”
Mitchell, Bash and Gillibrand all said, however, that the issue is largely a generational one.
“I can’t even think of one lawmaker in either party in either chamber who would do this who’s maybe 50 years old or younger,” said Bash.
The average age of U.S. Senators is 63.
“The average age in Congress has remained within a rather small range since World War II. The average age in the Senate was 59 in 1945, compared to 62 in 2011,” wrote Brian Palmer at Slate.
Of the 100 senators, 20 are currently female. Only nine African-Americans have ever been elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate — there are currently two serving — none of them women. As of 2008, more than two-thirds of sitting U.S. senators were millionaires.
[Editor’s note: an earlier draft of this article said that there are three African-Americans currently serving in the U.S. Senate, but in fact, there are only two. We regret the error.]