KUNC’s Bente Birkeland’s latest story on the crisis over widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly takes square aim at a problem we identified months ago but up to now hasn’t received the attention it deserves: the double standard being applied to Republicans accused of harassment under Senate President Kevin Grantham. It’s a double standard that became outlandish recently after Republicans engineered a ridiculous complaint against a Democratic Senator over disputed alleged use of an women’s bathroom while proven-credible allegations of harassment by Republican Senators go unpunished:
Senate President Kevin Grantham is under scrutiny for his handling of harassment complaints. Critics say he’s been inconsistent, even partisan, and they question his ability to be fair and help make the Capitol’s culture more professional.
In one example, Grantham, a Republican, told the media that Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, acted improperly, although an investigation into allegations against Kagan had not yet begun. But when sexual harassment allegations against three Republican senators were found credible, Grantham did not say if his colleagues had acted inappropriately and has instead called the independent investigations flawed.
In another example, Grantham scolded a nonpartisan Senate staffer for sharing his allegations of workplace harassment with the press, but defended the right of a Republican senator to do the same thing when she alleged harassment.
Overall, the response by Senate Republicans to the allegations of harassment by members of their caucus has been so bad that the only thing keeping them functional is highly deferential media coverage–sacrificing the credibility of friendly reporters to help Grantham and company keep the deflections going for another news cycle. The example of the complaint against Sen. Daniel Kagan, which alleges no sexual misconduct of any kind yet was validated as presumed guilt by Grantham before the complaint was even filed, is egregious enough to oblige any reasonable person to admit to the hypocrisy when confronted and either apologize or at least acknowledge the obvious problem.
But we know from experience now that’s not going to happen here.
The complaint against Kagan may not even represent the worst of the double standard Grantham rules the Senate by during this ongoing PR crisis. The deplorable incident last week in which a GOP legislative aide was quoted in a conservative media outlet “slut shaming” a victim whose complaint against Sen. Jack Tate was found credible occurred despite a memo to all Senate staff ordering them not to talk to the press about any case of harassment. The circumstances surrounding that incident invite basic questions about whether the GOP aide in question was given permission to talk to the press despite that gag order–because what he had to say would be helpful to Republicans.
The bottom line is that every one of Grantham’s moves since the sexual harassment scandal first broke last fall have been with the deliberate purpose of shielding Republican lawmakers from accountability. When the allegations surfaced, Grantham demanded a formal investigation. When the investigations sided with the accusers, Grantham sat on the reports for months. When the accusers grew tired of waiting and spoke out, Grantham attacked the investigators. When staff and lawmakers violate his orders to not talk to the press, Grantham only gets angry is when the leak goes against Republicans. And when given the chance to make a bloody hypocrite of himself over a trifling allegation against a Democrat, Grantham rushed to pronounce the Democrat guilty before any investigation had even taken place.
We don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that it doesn’t get any worse than this. We can only say again that for term-limited President Grantham, this is a singularly disgraceful legacy to leave behind. It’s likely at this point that the only remedy to the failure of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate to hold sexual harassers in their midst accountable will be the November elections. The chances that Grantham’s misdeeds will measurably contribute to a very good year for Colorado Democrats are growing with each damaging news cycle.
When Republicans swear in to the Senate in 2019 as the minority party, they’ll have Grantham to thank.