In the wake of Harvey Weinstein's downfall over multiple allegations of sexual harassment, it should come as no surprise that the movie mogul's bad behavior toward women was not confined to Hollywood. Allegations of inappropriate touching now have been leveled against an Oregon state senator.
The initial accusation came in response to a tweet from a Republican staff member who accused Democrats, including Sen. Sara Gelser of Corvallis, of accepting contributions from Weinstein. Weinstein gave $5,000 to the state Democratic Party in the mid-1990s, years before Gelser was in the Legislature.
Gelser fired back, asking if the staffer would make sure no member of the Senate Republican caucus groped or touched female lawmakers or staff.
Later, Senate President Peter Courtney removed Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, from all committees he serves on, saying he previously had warned Kruse not to touch women.
Gelser confirmed that Kruse had touched her inappropriately, and a second female lawmaker, as yet unidentified, said Kruse did the same to her, prompting Courtney's action. Kruse also has a history of smoking in his Senate office in violation of state law. Courtney had the door of the office removed.
Kruse flatly denies the touching allegations and says he is being deprived of due process as well as "access to any of the specifics of the allegations."
Courtney said the Legislature's lawyers and the human resources department instructed Kruse in March 2016 "not to touch women at work. Period."
Kruse told the Roseburg News-Review that he believes the situation is more about boundary issues than anything of a sexual nature. That's debatable, but here's the thing Kruse apparently does not understand: It does not matter.
Whether he considers it sexual is immaterial. Unwanted touching is not OK. If you are warned not to do it again, and you do it anyway, there will be consequences.
Kruse may feel singled out, and so far, he is. But we suspect this kind of behavior is not confined to one lawmaker.
Women have made inroads at the Capitol in recent years. The House speaker and the majority leaders of the House and Senate are women, and female lawmakers are a majority of the House Democratic caucus. But overall, women make up only a third of the 90 seats in both chambers. It's still a boys' club, and evidently at least one of the boys still has not learned how to treat his female colleagues.
Perhaps the voters in Kruse's district — which includes a large portion of Coos County — will explain the facts of life to him at his next election.
— Medford Mail Tribune