A moment of social media ugliness committed by Republican leaders in both chambers of the Colorado legislature this weekend, making jokes minimizing sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that we now know to be allegations of violent sexual assault, produced a wealth of bad press in the last 24 hours with stories from Denver7 to Westword. After the past year’s crisis over sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly, these wisecracks from House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and (especially) Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert strongly suggested that they don’t take sexual misconduct seriously.
And that has pissed a lot of people off.
In Sen. Holbert’s case, it’s particularly galling after he helped cover up evidence documenting sexual harassment allegations against fellow Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner ahead of a failed vote to expel him from the Senate. Holbert has claimed that he was not aware of the allegations that prompted the satirical story he was commenting on, even though many details has been disclosed by last Saturday–more than enough to make these jokes minimizing the allegations against Kavanaugh imprudent.
As Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports, Democrats today are pointing out the obvious:
All but 10 Democratic lawmakers at Colorado’s state capitol signed a letter Thursday, including the Speaker of the House and Senate Minority Leader, asking two GOP leaders to participate in mandatory sexual harassment and diversity training in the wake of comments made on social media related to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The letter asks House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and Senate Majority Leader Christ Holbert to complete the training before legislative leaders meet to discuss changes to the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy…
“The General Assembly has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, held mandatory trainings, and put together an interim committee to recommend new policies and processes for dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the Capitol,” states the letter. “All of this will have been done in vain if these elected officials in positions of power, no matter what trainings they do, no matter how much money we invest, or how many committee hearings we hold, are dismissive of victims.” [Pols emphasis]
Dismissal of victims has been a central plank in the Senate GOP’s response to allegations of sexual harassment by Republican Senators ever since they original became public last fall. Senate President Kevin Grantham declared during the session this year that only sexual harassment rising to the level of a criminal act should be investigated and disciplined, though by the end of the session Grantham was forced to relieve Baumgardner of his remaining committee assignments due to the growing weight of evidence against him. But the deliberate coverup by Chris Holbert of information that could have changed votes in the hearing to expel Baumgardner cannot be dismissed as an oversight.
From Brett Kavanaugh to Randy Baumgardner, and in Holbert’s response to both, there is a damning consistency.