Sexual Harassment in Politics: A Brief but Disturbing History

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Some might think all the talk about sexual misconduct in politics is something new… but it isn’t. 

Sexual harassment claims blazed their way into the headlines back in 1991, when attorney Anita Hill accused her former boss Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. 
 
“He would turn the conversations to sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid,” she testified.  
 
During that time, Thomas had been nominated to the Supreme Court. 

Hill’s claims were met with criticism from conservatives and fellow African Americans who doubted the timing and her motives. 
 
A year later, rumors swirled about then governor and presidential candidate Bill Clinton. 
 
A woman, later identified as Juanita Broaddrick, accused him of rape in the 1970’s.
  
Then Gennifer Flowers came along claiming to be Clinton’s mistress for more than a decade.
 
All of this happened during his presidential run with a supportive Hillary Clinton at his side.
 
“I’m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” Hillary Clinton famously told “60 Minutes.” 

“I’m sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. If that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him,” she continued.  
 
Voters ignored the accusers, choosing instead to elect Bill Clinton as their next president. 
 
Since then, countless powerful men have been caught in the sexual misconduct and abuse limelight, from former Congressman Anthony Wiener to former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. 

Fast-forward to 2016, to another presidential campaign when more than a dozen women came forward with claims against Donald Trump. 

He denied the allegations and threatened to sue. He was also elected president. 
 
Then came the bombshell that brought down film mogul Harvey Weinstein, and the floodgates were opened. 

That sparked the #MeToo movement where many women felt free to speak out about past allegations, once again sending shockwaves through political circles.
 
“I am sorry. There are no words I can say to regain your trust,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, told reporters in a recent press conference. 
 
Franken is accused of misconduct by multiple women.  
 
Longtime Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., left his leadership position after accusations of sexual harassment and paying a settlement to cover it up. Conyers has since announced he would not seek re-election. 
 
On the other side of the aisle, Senate candidate Roy Moore faces accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with a 14-year-old and misconduct with a handful of other younger women.
 
While Franken apologized and plans to keep his Senate seat, the other men have denied the allegations. 
 
Lawmakers say they want to stamp out even the hint of sexual harassment in Congress.
 
But in a recent interview with NBC, Anita Hill says she’s seen it all before. 
 
“Twenty-six years ago Washington wasn’t ready to lead on this issue, and I’m afraid even today, Washington cannot lead the country on this issue,” stated Hill.  
 

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