NASHVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Rep. Diane Black says she knows from personal experience, having endured sexual misconduct as a state lawmaker, why Congress needs to expose federal lawmakers who settled cases, force them to repay any tax dollars involved and ban such taxpayer-funded settlements going forward.
The Republican from Tennessee wrote in an op-ed Wednesday that the statehouse had a “good ol’ boy” culture.
When she started in the state House in 1998, one lawmaker would get on the elevator with her and back up until he was pressing against her. She learned to stick out her elbows to dig into his back, she said.
A nurse by profession, Black said another lawmaker almost always referred to her as “Nurse Goodbody.”
“It was objectifying, disrespectful and highly inappropriate for any work setting,” Black wrote.
Black didn’t name these men.
Black also noted that she was among the state lawmakers who pushed state Sen. Paul Stanley to resign in 2009 after an extramarital affair with a 22-year-old intern.
Black wrote that using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual misconduct cases in Congress is “despicable and serves to protect perpetrators while silencing victims.”
She’s a co-sponsor of a bill to ban using tax dollars for those settlements, expose the congressional lawmakers and staffers who have settled misconduct claims, and force them to repay any tax money used, with interest.
She said the Tennessee General Assembly also should disclose any such claims and settlements.
House Speaker Beth Harwell has said Rep. Jeremy Durham’s expulsion last year shows the House won’t tolerate sexual harassment. A state attorney general investigation accused Durham of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women.
Senate Speaker Randy McNally’s office has said there haven’t been any settlements involving senators or staff during his tenure. McNally, a former finance committee chair for a decade, said he’s not aware of any state funds used by the General Assembly to pay out sexual harassment settlements.
Black and Harwell are among the leading candidates seeking the Republican nomination to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam. The others are former state Sen. Mae Beavers, and businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee.