Democratic congresswoman suggests female colleagues invite harassment because of the way they dress

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesU.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) lectures members of the news media while heading into a closed Democratic caucus meeting in the House Visitors Center on Capitol Hill June 14, 2011 in Washington, DC.

  • Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur told her colleagues that “too many members dress inappropriately” which creates “an invitation” for harassment.
  • Kaptur also suggested that Capitol Hill should enforce a stricter dress code like that of the army.
  • She later said she did not mean to suggest women are responsible for sexual harassment.
  • A growing number of sexual misconduct allegations unsettled the worlds of politics, entertainment, news media, and Silicon Valley.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio told her colleagues that “too many members dress inappropriately,” which creates “an invitation” for sexual harassment, CNN reported citing Democratic sources familiar with the discussion.

Kaptur, 71, made the comments on dress code during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday. The meeting was meant to discuss how to reform internal mechanisms for reporting sexual misconduct.

Politico reported that sources who were present for the meeting heard Kaptur say she saw a colleague “with cleavage so deep it was down to the floor,” adding “what I’ve seen … it’s really an invitation.”

Kaptur also suggested that Capitol Hill should enforce a stricter dress code: “Maybe I’ll get booed for saying this, but many companies and the military [have] a dress code,” she said. “I have been appalled at some of the dress of … members and staff,” according to Politico.

CNN’s sources said people in the room were left “totally in shock” by Kaptur’s assertion.

Kaptur defended her comments in a statement, saying she had become a “refuge” for female staffers who had been abused by their bosses, and did not mean to suggest women are responsible for sexual harassment.

“I shared the stories from my time here in the context of the ‘Me Too’ legislation and how we can elevate the decorum and the dress code to protect women from what is a pervasive problem here and in society at large,” she said.

Kaptur began her service in 1983 and is the most-senior woman in the House.

Wednesday’s meeting was convened by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in order to tackle the growing number of sexual misconduct allegations that have unsettled the halls and offices of the US Congress.

Three lawmakers: Al Franken, John Conyers, and Trent Franks, resigned this month following allegations of harassment and misconduct. Some Democratic lawmakers have also called for President Donald Trump to resign over past allegations from 19 women who have accused Trump of varying degrees of sexual misconduct.

Last month, two congresswomen during a hearing on Capitol Hill accused sitting male lawmakers, whose identities they did not disclose, of sexual misconduct.

Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California have led calls to reform the House’s sexual harassment rules.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a radio interview on Wednesday that Congress is working to create policy that would prohibit the use of taxpayer money to settle harassment claims against lawmakers.

According to Reuters, the same congressional office that handles employment disputes has also handled claims of sexual misconduct since 2013, and has paid for settlements in at least two cases. Ryan’s calls follow reports that Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold used $US84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a 2014 sexual harassment claim leveled against him by his former communications director.

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