U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell says she's been sexually harassed in Washington

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, added her name to the growing list of those who say they have been sexually harassed in the nation's capital, telling CNN a "prominent" historical figure tried to put his hand up her skirt decades ago.

She also said Friday that a U.S. senator made unwelcome advances to her. Her office told the Free Press that the incidents involved two separate men.

Dingell did not name either the senator or the person who groped her and her office would not confirm whether the latter was an officeholder or not, saying only that he was "a prominent historical figure."

Dingell was elected to Congress in 2014 but has been a fixture in Washington for decades. She said on CNN she never mentioned the harassment to her husband, former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, at the time.

Dingell said she was in the first year of her marriage to John Dingell -- whom she replaced in Congress -- when she was seated next to the prominent figure at a dinner party and he ran his hand up her leg.

"The hand kept going up my leg. I took it off. A woman member recognized what was happening and got up from the table and said, 'Switch places.' You know, we watch out for each other," Dingell said.

As for the senator who made unwelcome advances, she did not detail the behavior further but said, "He would be aggressive, not only towards me, everybody on Capitol Hill knew it."

Dingell's remarks come at a time when Congress is coming under fire for how it handles claims of sexual harassment, with a process currently in place that includes counseling for the accuser and a months' long time period that must pass before a claim can be pursued, Settlements are generally mediated and kept secret.

This week, U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said some current male legislators have engaged in sexual misconduct, though they didn't name anyone. U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has also been accused of kissing a woman against her will and touching her during an overseas USO trip before he became a senator. Franken has apologized and an ethics probe is expected.

Dingell told CNN the incident involving the men were just two of what she called "too many" stories of unwelcome advances made by men towards her. She declined to name any of them, however, saying, "I would still pay a price if I were to name some of them."

Contact Todd Spangler at 703-854-8947 or at tspangler@freepress.com, Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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