Rep. Diana DeGette says ex-congressman tried to force kiss on her, alleges other harassment

DENVER – Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Colo., alleged in an interview Monday that a former congressman tried to force a kiss on her in an elevator and that she’d been sexually harassed several other times in her career.

The new allegations from DeGette came in an interview with Katy Tur on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily.

“I think many members of Congress—certainly professional women—have been harassed over the years, and I’m certainly no different,” DeGette said, adding that she didn’t think her story was much different than “most professional women.”

She says while at a dinner as a young lawyer, a man put his hand on her knee under the table. But the alleged unwanted advances escalated from there, DeGette said.

“When I was a young congresswoman, I was at a diplomatic dinner and one of the French diplomats tried to put his hand up my dress,” DeGette told Tur. “You can imagine the shock when you’re sitting at a dinner like that.”

But she says the most distinct sexual advance she’d received came from former Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2012.

“I was in an elevator, and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me,” DeGette said. “I pushed him away.”

DeGette noted that Filner was forced to resign as mayor of San Diego in August 2013 amid multiple sexual harassment allegations. He took the mayoral post less than a year earlier. The city of San Diego and Filner have since paid out more than $1 million to settle some of the seven sexual harassment lawsuits he’s faced since taking office, the LA Times reports.

“I was his colleague. He couldn’t take action against me, and believe me, I never got in an elevator with him again,” DeGette told Tur.

“But what concerns me now, and should concern everybody, is what about the young staffers? What about the interns? Was this happening with them too?” DeGette said. “And I think we have to ask ourselves the question: Is this happening with current members of Congress?”

Attempts to reach Filner for comment have so far been unsuccessful. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Filner has not responded to its questions seeking comment either.

DeGette says the problems on Capitol Hill aren’t new.

“This is the problem that we’ve had all along. When these advances happen, they’re brushed under the rug,” she said. “If there are people who are sexual predators in Congress right now, we need to know who they are.”

Tur asked DeGette if she had heard any specific names about current members of Congress.

“Some of my colleagues are saying that some of the people who are doing this are still there. I don’t know who they are,” DeGette said. “I haven’t heard names. But frankly, given what happened to me, I’m not surprised to hear it.”

DeGette said she felt that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., did the right thing in apologizing and calling for an ethics investigation regarding allegations he groped a news anchor before he was a senator. But she added that if new allegations brought forth Monday that he groped a woman while in the U.S. Senate were true, that she thought “probably he should resign” if an ethics investigation finds he did wrong.

DeGette also discussed how the allegations against Roy Moore have shaped discussions in the Capitol.

“I think that the Senate is going to have a big problem deciding what to do with Roy Moore,” she said. “On the one hand, [Republican leadership doesn’t] know what to do with Roy Moore, and it’s going to be a real problem for them.”

But she said that Alabama voters will decide whether or not they deem Moore fit for the Senate, and “whether they want to elect somebody who has obviously gone far beyond moral boundaries in his life.”

DeGette’s spokeswoman told Denver7 she had no further comment about her statements to Tur. But on Facebook, DeGette wrote: “Most women and many men have experienced this abuse, and I’m proud of the people from all walks of life who have shared their stories. It’s the first step to holding perpetrators accountable and ending this scourge once and for all.”

The allegations come amid allegations of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, and predatorial behavior among many high-profile politicians, Hollywood stars and media members.

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