speaking out
November 8, 2019

Mary Cain joined Nike and their running group, the Oregon Project, because she wanted to be the best female athlete ever. Instead, she says, she was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Nike and coach Alberto Salazar.

On Friday, Nike launched an "immediate investigation" to hear from former athletes of the Oregon Project, which was shut down last month after a doping scandal that resulted in Salazar being banned from the sport for four years.

Cain, who at 17 was the youngest American track and field athlete to make a World Championships team, was signed to Nike in 2013 in what she calls a dream come true. In a video published Thursday by The New York Times, she explained how detrimental it was.

An all-male staff told her she had to get thinner, and encouraged her to take birth control pills and diuretics to do so, said Cain, now 23. Salazar told her she needed to be 114 lbs., and would publicly shame her if she wasn't losing weight, she said. Salazar denied Cain's claims in an email to the Times.

Amid declining health and after suffering 5 broken bones, she was running terribly, she said.

"I started to have suicidal thoughts," Cain said in the video. When Salazar was reportedly dismissive of her self-harming and mental health, she reached a breaking point.

"I wasn't even trying to make the Olympics anymore, I was just trying to survive," Cain said in the video. "I made the painful choice, and I quit the team."

In a statement, Nike said Cain had "not raised these concerns" before. On Friday, Cain responded, saying she continued to work with Salazar, because "when we let people emotionally break us, we crave their approval more than anything."

Nike needs to change, Cain says, remarking, "I plan to be running for many years to come ... I want to end this chapter and I want to start a new one." Taylor Watson

October 28, 2019

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) released a video on Monday condemning the "coordinated campaign" she says forced her into resigning from Congress.

Hill announced on Sunday that she is stepping down, just a few days after she admitted she had an "inappropriate" relationship with a campaign staffer last year. She denied a new accusation that she is having a sexual relationship with her legislative director, and agreed to cooperate with a House Ethics Committee investigation.

Nude photos of Hill were recently published on a conservative website, and in the video, she blasted the leak. "I will fight to ensure that no one else has to live through what I just experienced," she said. "Some people call this electronic assault, digital exploitation. Others call it revenge porn. As a victim of it, I call it one of the worst things we can do to our sisters and our daughters."

Hill is in the midst of a divorce, and she believes there is a "coordinated campaign" being carried out against her by "the right-wing media and Republican opponents." They are enabling her husband by giving him a platform, she continued, something that is "disgusting and unforgivable, and they will be held accountable." Hill doesn't want her experience to "scare off other young women or girls from running for office," she said, adding, "I never thought my imperfections would be weaponized and used to try to destroy me and the community I have loved for my entire life. For that, I am so incredibly sorry." Catherine Garcia

September 30, 2019

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is out of the White House, but he's not done talking about the United States' foreign policy.

Bolton spoke about the Trump administration's approach toward North Korea in less-than-glowing terms Monday during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He reportedly said the U.S. should stop trying to organize summits between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and instead opt for a tougher path that could ultimately include regime change or even military force to halt North Korea's nuclear program.

"I don't think the North Koreans will ever voluntarily give up enough," Bolton said, referring to the negotiation strategy, which remains Washington's preferred option at the moment. "There is no basis to trust any promise that regime makes."

Bolton also reportedly added that the White House is not being harsh enough when it comes to North Korea's United Nations Security Council violations.

As The Washington Post notes, Bolton's comments are hardly surprising — he has long held a reputation for favoring forceful foreign policy — and his opinion, frankly, doesn't carry any actual decision-making weight at the moment. Still, his willingness to coyly, but publicly criticize the White House does raise some questions as to whether Bolton could eventually serve as a witness in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, the Post reports. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 9, 2019

Yet another woman has accused disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, with a former employee now coming forward after two decades to tell her story.

Rowena Chiu, who worked for Weinstein while she was an assistant at Miramax, spoke with journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for their new book She Said, alleging Weinstein assaulted her in a hotel room in 1998, as reported by The New York Times. She later received a settlement. Chiu spoke alongside Kantor, Twohey, and actress and Weinstein accuser Ashley Judd on Monday's Today, saying that when she was initially approached in October 2017, when the allegations against Weinstein were first reported, the idea of breaking her non-disclosure agreement was "terrifying."

At that point, Chiu says she had not spoken with her loved ones about the assault, and she "wasn't ready" to come forward, fearful of the "repercussions."

"It really has taken all of two years to square some of those things away," Chiu told NBC News.

Chiu said that Weinstein on numerous occasions asked her to give him a massage and that this escalated until "he pushed me back against the bed, and I was petrified and terrified as he tried to rape me."

According to the Times, Chiu says she struggled with depression after the alleged assault and attempted suicide, but she was inspired to come forward after meeting Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 2018. Weinstein, who has been charged with rape and predatory sexual assault and will stand trial in January, has denied Chiu's allegation. Brendan Morrow

Brendan Morrow

May 28, 2019

Ellen DeGeneres is opening up about being sexually abused by her stepfather as a teenager, saying she hopes to empower young girls to speak out.

DeGeneres spoke to David Letterman for an episode of his Netflix talk show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, which will be released on Friday. In it, she describes her stepfather sexually assaulting her when she was 15 or 16 years old.

“He told me ... that he'd felt a lump in [my mom's] breast and needed to feel my breasts because he didn't want to upset her, but he needed to feel mine," DeGeneres says, Yahoo reports. "...He convinced me that he needs to feel my breasts and then he tries to do it again another time, and then another time."

DeGeneres went on to say that when her stepfather tried to come into her room, she "kicked the window out and ran." But she says that she didn't tell her mother because "I was protecting her and I knew that would ruin her happiness." This is something she now regrets, saying, "I should never have protected her — I should have protected myself." When she did eventually speak up, DeGeneres says at first her mother didn't believe her.

The talk show host also said that the only reason she's detailing this "really horrible, horrible" story is that "I want other girls to not ever let someone do that," adding "it angers me when victims aren't believed, because we just don't make stuff up," The Wrap reports.

DeGeneres spoke with Today in October 2018, after Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, about being the victim of sexual abuse, saying she is "furious" at people who don't believe survivors. She also said on Ellen that "if anything, before I stop doing this show someday, I hope that I'm empowering women. We just have to not be quiet anymore." Brendan Morrow

April 30, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday accused President Trump and his allies of doing "everything they can to distance themselves and misinform the public from the monsters that they created" who are now "terrorizing the Jewish community and the Muslim community."

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, told a crowd in Washington, D.C., that the suspect in Saturday's shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California has also been accused of trying to bomb a nearby mosque. "I can't ever speak of Islamophobia and fight for Muslims if I am not willing to fight against anti-Semitism," she declared. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, she added, are "two sides of the same coin of bigotry."

Omar has been criticized by Trump, conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and some in her own party for comments that they said sounded anti-Semitic. She slammed Trump for his "vile attacks" against her, and said she figured out why so many people are coming after her. "The thing that upsets the occupant in the White House, his goons in the Republican Party, many of our colleagues in the Democratic Party is that they can't stand, they cannot stand, that a refugee, a black woman, an immigrant, a Muslim shows up in Congress thinking she's equal to them," she said. Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

After President Trump went after late Senator John McCain once again, some Republicans in the Senate are speaking out.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is the latest to do so, telling The Bulwark that Trump's comments about McCain "drive me crazy" and that "America deserves better." This comes after Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday criticized McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, saying his vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act was "disgraceful" and that "I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be." Trump's also went after McCain three different times on Twitter over the weekend, including retweeting a follower who wrote, "We hated McCain."

In response, Isakson said "nobody — regardless of their position — is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life." He argued that when Trump makes comments like these, "all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead, [and it] just sets the worst tone possible."

This isn't Isakson's last word on the subject, as he told The Bulwark he will speak against these attacks on McCain on Wednesday and will "lay it on the line."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) previously pushed back on Trump's attacks on McCain on Tuesday, tweeting that he "can't understand" why Trump would "disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also praised McCain amid the president's criticism, saying "nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished," although unlike Romney's post, Graham's tweets didn't mention Trump. Brendan Morrow

March 6, 2019

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that she was raped by a superior officer when she served in the Air Force.

During a hearing on sexual assault in the military, the Arizona senator and former fighter pilot said that her passion for this issue is "deeply personal" because she is "also a military sexual assault survivor" and that in "one case," she was "preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer."

McSally said she didn't report because she "didn't trust the system at the time" and "felt powerless." Later in her career, McSally says she came forward with her story and was "horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again."

The senator also said during Wednesday's hearing that she "witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation, and adjudication" in the military, which "shaped my approach as a commander and informed my advocacy for change." There's still "a long way to go" toward solving this problem, she said, adding that "we must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women, and yes, some men as well." Watch McSally's statement below. Brendan Morrow

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