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Claire McCaskill recounts sexual harassment in Missouri Capitol in NBC report

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2016. TNS

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recounted the sexual harassment she faced as a young legislator in Missouri on Sunday’s episode of “Meet the Press.”

The NBC political show reached out to all 21 female members of the U.S. Senate about incidents of sexual harassment they have faced during their careers.

McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who has led efforts to curb sexual assault in the military, was one of the four lawmakers, all Democrats, willing to go on camera to discuss her experiences for the NBC report, recounting an incident that happened when she was a member of the state legislature. The report comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which has sparked a national conversation about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry and other fields, including politics and government.

McCaskill, who served in the state legislature during the 1980s, described cautiously approaching the speaker of the Missouri House to discuss a bill she was sponsoring early in her political career.

“And I explained to him the bill I had, and did he have any advice for me on how I could get it out of committee?” McCaskil recalled. “And he looked at me, and he paused, and he said, ‘Well, did you bring your knee pads?’”

The speaker for the entirety of McCaskill’s state legislative career was Democrat Bob Griffin, who was convicted of federal corruption charges in 1998. McCaskill previously recounted the alleged exchange between her and Griffin in her 2015 book.

Decades after McCaskill left Jefferson City, another Missouri House speaker, John Diehl, a Republican from St. Louis county, resigned in 2015 after The Star uncovered sexually explicit text messages he sent to a female intern.

Shortly after Diehl’s resignation, state Sen. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, also stepped down from his seat in face of allegations of sexual harassment. The two scandals have helped spur reform efforts in Jefferson City.

Inspired by the Missouri statehouse intern scandals of 2015, a coalition of groups has launched a website aimed at helping Missouri interns respond to sexual harassment.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3

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