MSNBC Chris Hayes called out the lawmakers who allegedly harassed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to reveal themselves during a panel discussion on Friday regarding the culture of sexual harassment permeating the Capitol, which he called the “worst-kept secret in Washington.”
“I challenge the male senators — if they’re still alive, we don’t know if they are,” Hayes said. “But if you are, then you should come out and say that you did that, and you should apologize.”
Gillibrand has been criticized in some press circles for writing in her upcoming autobiography that unidentified male colleagues who told her to not get “porky” or that they preferred her to look “chubby,” though some female journalists have come forward to back up her account.
However, National Journal reporter Lucia Graves said, Gillibrand had no desirable options in the situation.
“She can, on the one hand, name names and make a huge public spectacle and perhaps have her career defined by this moment,” Graves said. “She can do what she’s done and talk in generalizations and then have people call her a liar or say that she needs to name names or tell her story on their terms. Or, the third option is silence, and I think that’s the most dangerous option of all, and all of the people who are attacking her for telling her story are encouraging that culture of silence which allows this kind of behavior to repeat.”
Hayes’ colleague Irin Carmon criticized the demands against Gillibrand to name the people involved, saying it was a subtle way for naysayers to accuse her of lying.
“I happen to think that if she did name names, there would still be people who sould say, ‘Not that guy, that guy’s a great guy. How could you impugn the reputation of that guy?'” Carmon explained. “None of these options are gonna clear her name.”
Columnist Ana Marie Cox, though, suggestion that the question of whether Gillibrand identifies her harassers goes beyond the political arena.
“I do, in this instance, think about what kind of lesson I would want to teach my daughter or my little sister, or some other woman that was close to me,” Cox told the panel. “Would I want her to say who it was? Would I want her to accept this kind of behavior with a laugh, or tell me that ‘He really didn’t mean it’? She can do what she wants, but I think we all should think about that particular question.”
During the discussion, Hayes showed footage of correspondents like Andrea Mitchell and Dana Bash sharing their own stories of being harassed, including Mitchell’s statement that she and her colleagues would exchange information on “whom you’d protect your young female interns from.”
He also shared the story of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) being groped by Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) on an elevator, as described in a 1997 book by journalist Clara Bingham. Bingham wrote that Thurmond did not recognize Murray as a fellow senator and asked if the “little lady” was married before harassing her.
“She said he did not recognize her as a colleague,” Carmon said of the encounter between Murray and Thurmond. “He didn’t recognize her as a fellow human deserving of respect and of boundaries. That would be true whether she was a senator or not.”
Watch part 1 of the discussion, as aired on MSNBC on Friday, below.
Part 2 can be seen below.