The House Committee on Ethics cleared Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings of sexual harassment allegations, although it did chide him for talking about sex and women’s underwear with a female employee of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The controversial congressman, one of only six U.S. District Court judges impeached by the U.S. Senate, admitted to making two comments to Winsome Packer during a 2008 trip to Vienna. In one, he told the young woman he wasn’t able to sleep after sex; and in the second, he said he didn’t know how female members of Congress wore the same underwear all day.
But the committee decided that witnesses had not provided enough evidence to believe the allegations by Packer, a Republican aide on the commission.
“While the conduct proven in this case does not constitute misconduct violating the standards under the Committee’s jurisdiction, it is far from perfectly professional,” a 17-page report on the findings says. “The Committee advises members and other in a supervisory role to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.”
The Daily Mail, as it always does, wrote up a compelling version.
Alcee Hastings exploded with rage and told Winsome Packer that she could forget about a political career when she repeatedly turned him down in their hotel one evening in Portugal in 2009.
She told him: ‘Excuse me, I have to call my son’ and walked away in tears during the most serious incident in what she alleged was a two-year-campaign of harassment
Hastings is said to have made numerous lewd comments and after downing two Courvoisier cocktails once said that he did not know how women wore the same pair of underwear all day.
Two Congressional ethics committee reports have revealed that he also repeatedly hugged Packer against her will.
He once supposedly told her that ‘nobody will think you are any less professional if you have a relationship with me’.
Both the House Committee on Ethics and the Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Hastings – who their reports say had two girlfriends at the time – but concluded he did NOT breach the rules of conduct.
Packer is a Jamaican-American who speaks two languages and had served as George W. Bush’s appointee to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
The Ethics Committee did have some stern words for Hastings, writing:
Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings’ behavior was at all times appropriate. He admitted to some conduct that, while not wrongful per se, certainly could be misunderstood. For example, Representative Hastings admitted that he hugged Complainant on a number of occasions. It is true that a hug, on its own, is not sexual harassment, and that a number of witnesses testified that (1) Representative Hastings hugs many people frequently; (2) when hugging others (including Complainant), Representative Hastings did not place his hands or body in such a fashion that indicated the hug was sexual or intimate in nature; and (3) given Representative Hastings’ work with Complainant often occurred in Europe, such contact was within the customary forms of greeting for the relevant locale. Nevertheless, hugging is not the most professional way to greet coworkers, and different individuals have different comfort levels for touching others.
Similarly, Representative Hastings admitted to making two comments in the presence of Complainant: one about not being able to sleep after sex, and another about female Members of Congress wearing the same underwear all day. It is true that Complainant attempted to make more of these comments than appears to be supported by the evidence, and that on their own, they do not constitute sexual harassment. Nevertheless, the Committee finds it concerning that in the year 2014 it has to remind a Member that such comments show poor judgment.