Kathy Castor: If Al Franken must go, so should Blake Farenthold - Florida Politics

Kathy Castor: If Al Franken must go, so should Blake Farenthold

Last week, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced he would soon resign from office following multiple reports of women accusing him of groping and forcibly kissing them.

Immediately after, some rank and file Democrats said Franken was a sacrificial lamb, so the party could go all-in attacking President Donald Trump and Alabama Sen. candidate Roy Moore for their alleged acts of sexual assault.

Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor does not agree.

“After the seventh women came forward to talk about Sen. Franken, I think people have the right to expect the highest standards of ethics from their elected officials, and they shouldn’t make a lot of exceptions,” the Congresswoman said Monday following a news conference at St. Joseph’s Hospital to note the upcoming deadline for Affordable Care Act sign-ups.

A group of women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault detailed their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by the businessman-turned-politician at a news conference Monday.

At least 13 women have now accused Trump of a range of offenses, from sexual harassment and misconduct to sexual assault, including unwanted kissing and groping. All the alleged incidents took place before he assumed the presidency.

“Folks need to look at President Trump for his past behavior,” Castor said. “I think he has a lot to answer for his very low standards of conduct on sexual harassment and so much more.”

Another member of Congress that Castor feels needs to go is Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold following reports that he had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle an allegation of sexual harassment from a former communications director in his office in 2015.

“I think it’s outrageous that he’s still there in the current climate with the other resignations,” she said. “I don’ think the Ethics Committee process functions right now. It’s not fast enough. It doesn’t provide the transparency that we need, so I’m hopeful that maybe the GOP will find some religion here and begin to act in a consistent manner.”

To address that issue, Castor is co-sponsoring legislation (HR 4497) with Nebraska Republican Don Bacon to prohibit the use of public funds to pay settlements and awards for workplace harassment and discrimination claims under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, arising from acts committed by members of Congress.

Farenthold announced Friday that he and his entire congressional staff underwent sensitivity and sexual harassment training last year after two female staffers complained of gender discrimination and “sexualized commentary in his Capitol Hill office, now bringing the total to three women who have complained of either sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or a hostile work environment in his office.

The 51-year-old Castor calls the revelations of sexual harassment that have brought down major figures in show business, the media and politics “remarkable,” and says it needs to spread to other less glamorous industries with similar bad actors.

“We are living through an extraordinary moment of social change in my lifetime,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of trailblazing women around here and in the state of Florida, but it always seems like we’re not able to break through on equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace, and I think this has to do with the millennial generation. That’s a little bit different and a little more focused on equity, and the older generations are catching up.

“I think about my daughters, who are 20 and 18, and what this means for them and other women. I think we’ve got to take great care now to make sure that this movement applies to every sector of the workplace, not just entertainment and politics but folks working on farms, folks working in domestic situations in the retail and hospitality industries. This has to have real meaning; we’ve gotta make sure this movement is as widespread as possible.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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