Pelosi, DCCC chairman call for congressman accused of harassment to resign

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 1: Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., holds a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, to call on House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte to hold a hearing and examine the use and legality of bump stocks. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Bill Clark

Last Updated Dec 2, 2017 12:29 AM EST

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are calling on Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada to resign, after a report claiming a former campaign staffer accused him of harassing her.

On Friday, Buzzfeed News reported a 25-year-old woman left her job on Kihuen's 2016 congressional campaign, citing repeated and unwanted propositions for dates and sex, and after he inappropriately touched her thigh on two occasions. Buzzfeed granted the woman's request to have her last name withheld, so she is named only by her first name, Samantha. Buzzfeed reported the woman repeatedly refused Kihuen's advances, but he continued to pursue her. 

"Across the nation, in every industry, brave women are coming forward to share stories of harassment that must be heard," Pelosi said in a statement issued early Saturday morning. "In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign.  The young woman's documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward. "In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign."

"Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign," DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. 

Luján called on the freshman congressman to resign when Buzzfeed detailed the allegations against him, while Pelosi's statement came a few hours after the story was published. 

On Feb. 19. 2016, Kihuen told the woman they should "get a hotel room here" during a campaign-related visit to a hotel for a meeting with Rep. Tony Cardenas. The woman told BuzzFeed she refused. On the way back from the meeting to the campaign office, the woman claims Kihuen asked her if she'd ever cheated on her boyfriend, and started touching her thigh, according to BuzzFeed. On another occasion in March, the BuzzFeed report says Kihuen asked for help with something on the computer, and the woman alleges he grabbed the back of her thigh when she looked at the screen. 

In a statement from his congressional office, Kihuen called the staffer accusing him a "valued member of my team," but revised his original statement to BuzzFeed to add that he does not "recall" any of the circumstances described. 

"The staff member in question was a valued member of my team," Kihuen said in a statement. "I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am, but I want to make it clear that I don't recall any of the circumstances she described. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women's equality, and I will continue to do so."

The allegations against Kihuen are the latest allegations of harassment in Congress. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called on Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, to resign after multiple former staffers accused him of harassing them. Conyers' lawyer, Arnold Reed, said Conyers will not be pressured to step down. 

"Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave," Conyers lawyer Arnold Reed told reporters in a press conference in Detroit Thursday.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, is also under fire amid allegations from multiple women that he inappropriately touched them.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, announced he will not seek reelection after a nude image of him surfaced online. 

CBS News' Walt Cronkite contributed to this report. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.