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