EJ Montini: State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita is worried that her claim that another lawmaker sexually harassed her will draw retaliation. Should she be?
Republican State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita is wrong, politically, about just about everything, but she’s right to come forward with her allegations of sexual harassment against Republican lawmaker Don Shooter.
She says she brought her concerns to the legislative leadership and got no satisfaction.
She now has gone public.
Good for her.
These things are never sorted out behind closed doors. They are only covered up. If there is a concern, an accusation, get it out in the open and have it properly investigated.
That hasn’t happened much. And we know why.
It has to do with how we react.
Ugenti-Rita is worried about retaliation.
And why shouldn’t she be? The Harvey Weinstein horror has brought forth many other stories about sexual harassment – in all fields. It has spurred action from women who have remained silent because they know we’ll react suspiciously, even with condemnation. And they know how their colleagues or bosses will react.
"I'm worried about retaliation,” Ugenti-Rita told Dennis Welch of 3TV and CBS 5. “I'm worried about ... you know ... it's an uncomfortable spot. You don't want to be thought of differently. You don't want to be pointed at or whispered about."
Ugenti-Rita described several instances.
"There was an incident where he came to my office during the day and asked about my chest," she said. "At a conference, he came to my room uninvited with a six-pack of beer. I never answered the door."
She added that at a Republican fundraiser at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort that “he (Shooter) walked me to my car and proceeded to try to convince me to go to a room. He knew I was uncomfortable because I told him. I remember two incidences specifically where I told him directly that what he was doing was wrong."
According to Ugenti-Rita, "He (Shooter) tells me that he loves me and asks if there's an opportunity for us to be together in the future. Just then, he bursts out, 'I have been married for 32 years and have never done anything.’"
Shooter calls her a liar.
He said initially he hadn’t read Ugenti-Rita's claims.
In a statement Shooter said, "Since then, I've actually seen the text of Ms. Ugenti's accusations and I absolutely withdraw my apology. I've been happily married for 41 years, I've never cheated on my wife, and there isn't a woman on this planet I would leave my wife for."
He added, “Ms. Ugenti(-Rita) is lying about me and I have asked (House) Speaker (J.D.) Mesnard to have the entire matter investigated by the House Ethics Committee / Counsel. At the conclusion of their work, I will consider taking further legal action in this matter.”
Ugenti-Rita stands by her comments.
The state House speaker promises an investigation.
Ugenti-Rita also said that Shooter is only one of the legislators who have harassed her.
If there are other accusations, they should come to light. These are elected officials, after all, men who help to craft and vote on laws that protect women from just this kind of behavior.
And it's not over. House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend said in a Facebook post that she, too, has "also been on the receiving end of both unwanted sexual advances by more than one person as well as intimidating behavior and retaliation by another in a position of power in years passed."
Again, more than one.
As for Shooter’s threat to “consider taking further legal action in this matter,” I’m reminded that President Donald Trump promised to sue each and every one of the 16 women who have made sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against him, as well as promising to sue The New York Times for printing them.
No lawsuits have been filed.
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