Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen has been reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee after a nine-month investigation into allegations he sexually harassed women he worked with. From Buzzfeed:
The House Ethics Committee reprimanded outgoing Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen on Friday for making “persistent and unwanted advances” toward women required to interact with him for work, but did not recommend any disciplinary action against him.
Last December the Committee opened the investigation after two women accused Kihuen of repeatedly verbally harassing them and on some occasions touching them without their consent. Rep. Kihuen denied the allegations, claiming he had a relationship with one of the women (she denied it). However shortly after the 2nd accuser came forward as word of a 3rd accuser was pending, Kihuen announced he would not run for reelection.
The report released today points out that Kihuen denied the allegations but says the women’s stories were credible, backed up by witnesses, and had certain elements in common, despite the fact that the women involved didn’t know one another:
Representative Kihuen generally denied the allegations of unwanted advances.10 Despite Representative Kihuen’s denials, each of the complainant’s allegations were supported by
documentary evidence and some of the alleged incidents were corroborated by third party witnesses. Furthermore, at least two outside entities were made aware of Campaign Staffer and D.C. Firm Employee’s allegations and approached Representative Kihuen, and his campaign, about his behavior in 2016 and 2017.
Similarities in the allegations bolster the credibility of the complainants. Two unrelated women, Campaign Staffer and Nevada Lobbyist, both testified that Representative Kihuen touched their thighs while they were riding in a car with him. Two unrelated women, Campaign Staffer and a partner at the D.C. firm, both testified that Representative Kihuen asked them if they have ever or would ever cheat on their boyfriend or husband. Two unrelated women, D.C. Firm Employee and Nevada Lobbyist, testified and/or produced evidence that Representative Kihuen spoke to them about their career or career advancement in the course of hitting on them. Finally, two unrelated women, Campaign Staffer and Nevada Lobbyist, both testified that Representative Kihuen grabbed the back of their thigh or their buttocks while they were alone in an office with him.
After the Committee’s reprimand was announced, Kihuen released a statement expressing some remorse but not really admitting to anything specific. From the Nevada Independent:
“After much reflection and introspection, I recognize that regardless of the fact that I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable or disrespected, what matters is how my actions were perceived by the women who came forward,” he said in a statement. “It saddens me greatly to think I made any woman feel that way due to my own immaturity and overconfidence. I extend my sincere apologies to each of these women. Though I do not agree with aspects of the Report, I am thankful the Committee afforded everyone an opportunity to be heard and appreciate the Committee’s acknowledgment that I fully cooperated with the investigation.”
Prior to the allegations surfacing, Rep. Kihuen was widely considered a rising star among Democrats. This profile from 2013, when he was still a Nevada state legislator, makes the point:
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama courted him during their 2008 presidential campaigns, and Kihuen’s political mentor, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, has called him “a rising star in Nevada and the Democratic Party.” After winning two successive terms in the state assembly, Kihuen, a Democrat, became Nevada’s youngest state senator in 2010. This year, he served as senate majority whip and chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee.
As a congressman, he made immigration one of his top issues because of his own background as an immigrant from Mexico who had come here as a child (and who was for some time himself an illegal immigrant). This Roll Call video profile of Kihuen is from Oct. 2017, about two months before the sexual harassment allegations surfaced: