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Gillibrand: ‘Watershed moment’ at hand on sexual harassment

The array of harassment scandals began with Harvey Weinstein, then went on to include Roy Moore, Matt Lauer and public radio host Garrison Keillor.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here on Nov. 15,

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here on Nov. 15, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday society is at a “watershed moment” on how it views and deals with sexual harassment with change becoming imminent in light of the recent scandals in entertainment and politics.

“I think this is a reckoning,” the New York Democrat said in a radio interview. “I think we are in a watershed moment where it’s going to be an important change for our women, for our daughters, for men and for society about what we deem is acceptable. And in the world we live in today, we won’t tolerate abuse of power and position in any form from anyone.”

Gillibrand, who previously proposed new laws for combating sexual harassment in Congress and in the military, stepped out of the Democratic mainstream two weeks ago when she said former President Bill Clinton should have, in hindsight, resigned over sexual harassment allegations. She later added the issue is viewed differently today and noted that President Donald Trump also has been the target of accusations.

The array of harassment scandals began this fall with Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein, then went on to include Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer and most recently public radio host Garrison Keillor.

In some cases, the allegations involved long ago actions, prompting a question to Gillibrand about whether past acts should be viewed by today’s standards. The senator said: “Things are changing.”

“I think we need clarity today about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” Gillibrand said on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a radio program that originates from the State Capitol in Albany. “I think a lot of behavior that we’re talking about isn’t acceptable in any circumstances. It wasn’t acceptable then — it’s just that, today, people are willing to hold people accountable. . . . I think things have changed.”

Asked by host Susan Arbetter whether she believed Democrats and Republicans were being held to different standards on the issue — a reference to the pressure on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to resign, but not Trump, a Republican, Gillibrand answered: “I don’t think anyone is going to be held to a different standard any more. I think this is a reckoning.”

Gillibrand said it’s up to Franken whether to resign, while quickly adding it was “outrageous” that there is no investigation of Trump despite more than a dozen sexual harassment allegations. She predicted that in the near future “voters are not going to tolerate” politicians accused of harassment.

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