The head of the U.S. Forest Service, Tony Tooke, announced his resignation on Wednesday, effective immediately, amid an internal investigation into sexual misconduct claims, PBS NewsHour reports. The allegations against Tooke include that he had relationships with subordinates before he was elevated to chief last September, but a NewsHour investigation also uncovered a wider culture of sexual harassment and assault at the Forest Service, and retaliation against those employees who reported their harassment.
"I have decided that what is needed right now is for me to step down as Forest Service Chief and make way for a new leader that can ensure future success for all employees and the agency," Tooke said in an email to employees. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he had accepted Tooke's resignation, thanking Tooke for his four decades of service at the agency but saying in his experience, "in order to effectively lead any organization, you must have the moral authority to inspire its members to work toward the goal of continuous improvement." Peter Weber
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) said that due to the #MeToo movement, she will no longer be doling out her signature hugs to constituents and colleagues. "I do have concerns now that a pat on the shoulder might be taken the wrong way," Ernst told the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa.
Ernst described herself as "a big hugger" but said that she has "given pause to that now." She was the first ever female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, and has spoken publicly about the harassment she faced there, including unsolicited "comments, passes, things like that." In a statement on her website, Ernst calls sexual assault "a horrendous crime," adding: "We won't tolerate it in gyms, we won't tolerate it on college campuses, and we won't tolerate it in the military. Period." She also teamed up with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to sponsor a bill aimed at reforming how Congress addresses sexual harassment.
In further comments to the paper, Ernst said the #MeToo movement is "unfortunate in some aspects" because "I don't want to be accused of hugging somebody who didn't want a hug." She added, though, that overall the #MeToo movement has been "very important."
"It is raising awareness, I think, with a lot of women out there that maybe they were afraid to say something," Ernst told the Daily Times Herald. "Now, it's okay to say something." Jeva Lange
The Las Vegas Review-Journal killed reports about casino mogul Steve Wynn's sexual misconduct in 1998
Casino mogul Steve Wynn, 76, allegedly engaged in a "decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct," The Wall Street Journal wrote last month, with its report leading to Wynn's resignation as the Republican National Committee finance chair. On Monday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal admitted that it also worked on a story about Wynn's sexual misconduct, but kept it from being published … in 1998.
"After killing the article, the newspaper ordered the reporter who wrote it to delete it from the newspaper's computer system," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. But "I always wanted to tell these women's stories," said former courts reporter Carri Geer, who is now the publication's metro editor. "That's why I saved this file for 20 years."
The Review-Journal's 1998 story centered on 11 waitresses at Wynn's Mirage hotel and casino, who brought a lawsuit against their employer after Wynn allegedly told them they did not look good in their uniforms. Some of the women additionally said they were pressured to "accommodate customers sexually," and one server claimed Wynn pressured her into having sex with him after she told him she was a new grandmother.
The report was held after Wynn's lawyers paid for the newspaper to administer lie-detector tests to two of the women accusers. The results indicated that one woman was apparently being truthful, while the second, Cynthia Simmons, failed the test. Simmons had accused Mirage of pressuring her to have sex with customers, and she told the Review-Journal she "was under emotional distress" before the polygraph test. "I couldn't even sleep the night before," she said.
Simmons also expressed her disappointment that the reports about Wynn were silenced by the paper. "I'm shocked anyone thought it was a secret," she said of the allegations. "We all knew this was going on, but nobody spoke up because they were afraid." Jeva Lange
As #MeToo legislation stalls, GOP senator asks, 'Do we really need legislation to get senators to do the right thing?'
#MeToo legislation has apparently stalled in the Senate, where lawmakers are not expressing an urgency to change Congress' standing sexual harassment policies, McClatchy DC reports. "Do we really need legislation to get senators to do the right thing?" asked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. "I would say you probably don't."
Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) resigned late last year after facing credible accusations of harassing and groping women. A number of other sitting congressmen and staff, including most recently Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), have announced retirement or resigned as allegations surfaced.
While Johnson said he doesn't feel "a burning desire" to personally take action to change the standing harassment procedures, there has been movement in the House, where a bill is expected to pass this week that would "hold members personally responsible" and "[increase] transparency." Last November, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced two bills that would address how Congress handles harassment allegations, although Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) seemed doubtful the legislation could pass.
"Finding the floor time to do things is so difficult," he said, even as he works with a bipartisan group to consider changing the rules. "So we'll see." Jeva Lange
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Saturday announced he has fired his chief of staff after receiving "sufficient evidence" to conclude the staffer has "violated office policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates."
Rubio said he learned of "allegations of improper conduct" by the chief of staff for the first time Friday, and he flew from Florida to Washington to address the issue in person. The conduct, Rubio concluded, "led to actions which in my judgment amounted to threats to withhold employment benefits."
Rubio's statement did not name any parties involved. Bonnie Kristian
Hillary Clinton reportedly protected a male staffer accused of sexual harassment in her 2008 campaign
Hillary Clinton, over the advice of staff, chose to retain a top aide to her 2008 presidential campaign despite a fellow staffer leveling multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him, The New York Times reported Friday. The aide, Burns Strider, was Clinton's faith adviser during her first presidential run.
Clinton's 2008 campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle apparently implored the candidate to dismiss Strider, who was accused by a 30-year-old woman working on the campaign of "[rubbing] her shoulders inappropriately, [kissing] her on the forehead, and [sending] her a string of suggestive emails," The New York Times reported. But Clinton "said she did not want to" fire Strider, the Times reported, and he instead was kept on the team but forfeited "several weeks of pay" and was made to seek counseling. The woman who made the complaints — who had shared an office with Strider — "was moved to a new job," the Times said.
Both the woman who made the claims against Strider, as well as Solis Doyle, declined to comment to the Times. Strider did not respond to a request for comment. When reached by the Times, a spokesman for Clinton offered a statement from the law firm that represented her 2008 campaign: "To ensure a safe working environment, the campaign had a process to address complaints of misconduct or harassment. When matters arose, they were reviewed in accordance with these policies, and appropriate action was taken. This complaint was no exception."
Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari has been accused of sexual assault. In an article published on the women's website babe.net, a 23-year-old woman writing under the pseudonym "Grace" said she went on a date with Ansari last September that ended up being "the worst experience with a man I've ever had." She said the two went back to Ansari's apartment, where the actor took advantage of her, repeatedly pressuring her to engage in sexual acts, despite her objections. "I felt violated," she said. "It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault."
On Sunday, Ansari responded to the allegation, saying he was "surprised and concerned" that she felt the encounter was not consensual, The Guardian reports. "I continue to support the [#metoo] movement that is happening in our culture," Ansari added. "It is necessary and long overdue." Jessica Hullinger
Actor Liam Neeson argued in an appearance on Ireland's Late Late Show Friday that the cascade of sexual harassment allegations against famous men in recent months has not adequately distinguished between rape or assault and milder offenses or misunderstandings. "There is a bit of a witch hunt happening too," Neeson said. "There's some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl's knee or something and suddenly they're being dropped from their program or something."
He highlighted the case of radio host Garrison Keillor, who was fired by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) over allegations of inappropriate behavior. MPR has not stated the nature of the accusation against Keillor, though the radio host claims he merely placed his hand on the back of a female colleague in a comforting gesture before he realized she was wearing an open-backed shirt. Neeson also said he is "on the fence" about the accusations against fellow actor Dustin Hoffman, calling Hoffman's alleged misconduct, which includes exposing himself to a 16-year-old, "childhood stuff."
Neeson concluded by saying he believes the #MeToo movement is "healthy, and it's across every industry," mentioning his experience as a United Nations goodwill ambassador as he described the "chilling" treatment of women in the workplace. Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian