Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch updates the bizarre turn that the controversy over widespread sexual harassment at the Colorado General Assembly took earlier this week–in an apparent attempt to distract from investigated and credible allegations of sexual harassment by at least three Republican state senators, a complaint alleging that a Democratic senator used an unmarked women’s bathroom at the state capitol:
[Sen. Daniel] Kagan said the story is a massive exaggeration. Like other Democrats, he believes the claim is nothing more than an effort to distract from harassment complaints filed against Republicans. Even so, the story has resulted in a formal complaint against Kagan, and a new round of partisan rancor in the Capitol.
This situation started Friday when Kagan joined a chorus of Democratic senators who took to the chamber’s microphone to call for the expulsion of Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner. An investigation has found Baumgardner likely groped an aide in 2016. Senate leadership has so-far declined to act on the findings beyond a letter that acknowledged he had voluntarily agreed to take sensitivity training and resign as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee…
Democrats have been increasingly confrontational in their demands for leadership to do more. During his turn at the mic, Kagan took a graphic approach, reciting the legal details of what constitutes sexual assault, and noted, “many butt-slappers and thigh-strokers fancy that they are merely flirting and flattering.”
On Monday, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham called Kagan’s remarks “despicable.” He said many members were visibly shaken. Then, Grantham dropped a new allegation from his Republican members, noting the speech came from a man “that is known — known — to frequent the women’s restroom.”
Today’s story explains the details that most readers already know: the two second-floor bathrooms used by senators and senate staff are not marked as gender-specific bathrooms, or even as bathrooms at all. The bathroom that includes urinals suitable for men is unlocked and publicly accessible, while the “women’s bathroom” has a keypad to limit access. Sen. Kagan claims he made the mistake of using the wrong unmarked bathroom only once, but the simple fact that the bathroom is unmarked–and that there is no allegation of any improper behavior beyond using the wrong unmarked bathroom–severely limits the amount of scandal that can be reasonably derived from his mistake.
Once you understand that, the GOP’s over-the-top freakout on Sen. Kagan compounds the disgrace of the Senate Republican majority’s failure to address multiple credible allegations of sexual harassment by Republican lawmakers. Yes, Sen. Kagan may have used the wrong bathroom. With no allegation of any accompanying misconduct, that is not even in the same ballpark as repeatedly touching the posterior of a teenage legislative aide, or suggesting a date to further an aide’s career.
In fact, we shouldn’t even have to say so. It should be obvious.
The real issue appears to be that Sen. Kagan called out Republicans for protecting sexual harassers in their midst in explicit terms on the floor of the Senate last Friday. Unfortunately for the GOP, their retaliation against Kagan invites such an easy charge of hypocrisy–not to mention hyperbole–that in the end it is counterproductive for Republicans hoping to muddy the waters around their own misdeeds. Instead of taking the pressure off Senate Republicans, this nonsensical clamor actually makes things worse.
And for term-limited Senate President Kevin Grantham, a pathetic legacy is taking shape.