The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is calling for Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen of Nevada, once a rising star of the Democratic Party, to resign amid reports he sexually harassed a former campaign staffer.
“Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign,” DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said in a statement.
The victim, identified as Samantha, said that Kihuen repeatedly harassed her and made unwanted sexual advancements toward her, touching her thigh twice without her consent, during his 2016 congressional campaign, according to a BuzzFeed report published Friday.
In one incident, Samantha told BuzzFeed she rejected Kihuen when he suggested they get a room together in a hotel they were visiting for a meeting with Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.). At another time, she said, when he began touching her thigh, Kihuen asked if she’d ever cheat on her boyfriend.
The harassment made Samantha, who was 25 at the time, so uncomfortable, she said, that she quit as his campaign finance director five months after she started.
After Samantha told a DCCC staffer the reason she was quitting, the information was eventually passed to Kihuen’s campaign manager, Dave Chase, who confronted Kihuen. During that conversation, Kihuen reportedly denied he had misbehaved.
Sen. Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) condemned her colleague’s behavior in a statement Friday. Masto said she supported a “full, fair and expedient” investigation into Kihuen and other members of Congress who are facing similar accusations of harassment and abuse, but she did not call for Kihuen to resign.
“In the days and weeks ahead, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to demand meaningful reform of the Ethics process in Congress,” Masto said.
In a statement shared just after midnight on Saturday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that no one in Congress “should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign” and called for Kihuen’s resignation.
“The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward,” Pelosi said.
Kihuen apologized for making Samantha uncomfortable but said it “is not indicative of who I am” in a statement to BuzzFeed:
“The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.”
This story has been updated to include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s statement.