‘Go away!’

Congresswoman recalls fighting off a touchy-feely colleague in House cloakroom

U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN). (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, has revealed that she was once forced to swat at another member of Congress with a rolled-up newspaper after he tried to force a hug on her in the House cloakroom.

“‘What the hell are you doing? Go away!’” McCollum, a 16-year Congress veteran, recalled saying at the time. “I sort of handled it with humor, but it was very clear. He never bothered me again.” Colleagues who witnessed the exchange, she added, laughed as she fended him off.

“I’m a coequal and I’ll take a back seat to no other member with a voting card here,” McCollum said. “Having said that, staff or a lobbyist or a [research] fellow, they’re in a much different predicament here.”

McCollum’s comments come after more than 50 women working on Capitol Hill spoke out about an allegedly rampant problem of sexual harassment in congress — and a support system that offered little possibility for redress. This week, the House instituted mandatory sexual harassment training in response to testimony from U.S. Representatives Barbara Cornstock and Jackie Speier, who had previously spoken out about being sexually assaulted by a chief of staff when she was a young congressional staffer. According to a recent Roll Call survey, four in ten female congressional staffers said they suffered sexual harassment while at work.

The rolled-up newspaper is definitely an effective and safe way to thwart a gropey colleague. If you believe what Sarah Palin has to say about it, there’s another method, though much more dangerous. According to a brief interview she gave to NBC News this week, she surmised that no one in Washington D.C. has ever attempted to grope or violate her because they probably are aware she’s packing heat.

Read the full story at The Star Tribune.

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