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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says she has a #MeToo sexual harassment story and advises women to 'let it go'

  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace but declined to name the perpetrator, saying the person is “still around.”
  • Chao said that it isn’t worth it to revisit her experience with harassment, arguing that it does women “a double injury” to focus on negative experiences.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Tuesday that she has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, but declined to talk about the experience or name the perpetrator, telling an audience of women at Politico’s fifth annual Women Rule Summit that “the person is still here and they’re still around.”

Chao, a longtime Washington insider who is married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said she “will stand up for other women” who have been mistreated, but advised women to let go of their own past experiences, warning that focusing on them “holds you back.”

“I will fight for other women and I will stand up for other women, but, of your own, you gotta let it go,” she said. “Because otherwise, it’s too corrosive, it’s too negative, and it does you a double injury because it holds you back.”

Chao said that her experience with harassment, which she said was “a dirty little secret that a lot of women have held for a long time,” occurred when “the environment was very different.”

“Things change, times change, and it’s not worth my while to go back and revisit those negative moments,” she said, urging women to have a “magnanimity of spirit” when dealing with abusive situations.

This comes as Capitol Hill is facing increasing scrutiny for its reportedly pervasive issues with sexual harassment and misconduct. On Tuesday, the longest serving member of Congress, Democratic Rep. John Conyers, announced his retirement following multiple allegations that he sexually harassed former staffers.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Al Franken has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct and reports emerged last week that Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold spent $US84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former communications director in 2014.

In recent weeks, several female lawmakers have spoken openly about harassment they faced from male lawmakers. Two congresswomen – Democrat Jackie Speier and Republican Barbara Comstock – accused sitting male lawmakers of sexual harassment and misconduct during a House hearing on sexual harassment policy.

Dozens of lawmakers, aides, and political operatives in Washington have spoken out – both anonymously and publicly – about a pervasive culture of harassment and coercion of young women, in particular, by men in positions of power on Capitol Hill.

Top lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have called for mandatory sexual harassment training for elected officials and staffers.

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