House Ethics Committee announces probe into Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen

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

The House Ethics Committee on Friday announced it has launched an investigation into sexual harassment allegations leveled against Rep. Ruben Kihuen. The Nevada Democrat is accused of sexually harassing a former campaign staffer.

"The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Ruben Kihuen may have engaged in sexual harassment. The committee, pursuant to committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations."

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rep. Rep. Ben Ray Luján called for Kihuen to step down, after 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. The woman also alleged Kihuen inappropriately touched her thigh on two occasions. 

In response to the new ethics probe, Kihuen said he would cooperate with the investigation. The freshman congressman has not agreed to step down. 

"As I've said previously, I intend to fully cooperate, and I welcome an opportunity to clear my name," Kihuen said in a statement issued to CBS News. 

The DCCC chairman 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, according to BuzzFeed, 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. 

Kihuen is only one of a number of members of Congress accused of sexual harassment. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, was forced to resign after the House Ethics Committee launched a probe into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, also announced he will resign after the Senate Ethics Committee announced an investigation into allegations against him. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, resigned after a report that he offered a former staff member $5 million to carry his child. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, has said he will step down after a former senior aide accused him of creating a toxic workplace and bullying staffers. 

CBS News' Catherine Reynolds contributed to this report. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.