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Lawsuit alleges Ernst witnessed sexual harassment

A lawsuit alleges that Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst witnessed an instance of sexual harassment while she was serving in the Iowa state legislature, but did nothing to stop the behavior.

The allegations are included in a lawsuit filed by a former staffer for the Iowa Republican Senate Caucus, Kirsten Anderson. Anderson, 35, is claiming that she was fired because she complained to her superiors about sexual harassment she witnessed.

{mosads}Ernst is not named as a party to the suit. She is only mentioned once in the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Des Moines Register.

“By way of just one example, Sen. Joni Ernst of Red Oak and Sen. Sandra Greiner of Keota witnessed sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues and did and said nothing while female staffers stood by unable to say anything,” the suit says.

Ernst denied the allegations and suggested they were politically motivated.

“As a mother of three daughters and someone who has been sexually harassed myself, I take sexual harassment allegations very seriously. Sexual harassment should never be tolerated. If I had witnessed any sexual harassment in the state legislature, I certainly would have put a stop to it,” she said in a statement.

“If anyone had brought accusations like this to my attention at the time, of course I would have acted immediately. Frankly, I am shocked to learn that I’m even referred to in this suit, and as a former colleague I hope she is not being exploited ahead of the election.” 

Her campaign’s spokeswoman, Gretchen Hamel, said in a separate statement that the suit was timed to affect the coming election.

Ernst is in a tight race with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) for the seat currently held by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Braley’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Tags Bruce Braley Tom Harkin

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