Amid allegations of sexual harassment, embattled freshman Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen vowed he will not resign from his post, despite calls from Democratic leaders that he step aside.
Instead, Kihuen is digging in with a shocking allegation of his own, taking aim at the leaders of his own party. In an interview with ABC News, Kihuen, D-Nev., said party leaders knew last year about a former campaign staffer’s allegations of misconduct but stood by his campaign nonetheless. Kihuen questioned why they are calling for his resignation now, more than a year later.
“I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year,” Kihuen said. “They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out and campaigned for me.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who are both demanding Kihuen’s resignation, adamantly deny knowing about the allegations against Kihuen before BuzzFeed published a report last week.
“Sadly, this is not the case. Leader Pelosi first learned of these allegations from BuzzFeed last week,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said.
“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” Meredith Kelly, DCCC communications director, said. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”
“I’ve been abundantly clear that anyone that is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that they don’t deserve to hold public office at any level, and I continue to hold that position,” Lujan, D-N.M., said.
A former Kihuen campaign aide, known only as “Samantha,” told a mid-level aide at the DCCC she had quit her job because then-candidate Kihuen made her “uncomfortable,” BuzzFeed reported last week. Another DCCC aide later brought the matter to Kihuen campaign manager Dave Chase, who confronted Kihuen about the complaint, though Kihuen denied it, according to BuzzFeed. Chase told BuzzFeed that he thinks Kihuen lied to him and he believes the victim, who alleges Kihuen propositioned her for dates and sex.
The DCCC did not launch an investigation at the time, sources indicate, because the victim initially did not provide the level of detail exposed in the BuzzFeed investigation.
Sources insist the campaign committee would not have proceeded with its financial support of Kihuen’s general election campaign if they had known the scope of the allegations, first detailed by Buzzfeed on Friday.
“I’m not resigning,” Kihuen, 37, said outside his office on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “I plan on continuing the job that I was elected to do by the people of the 4th congressional district.”
A Kihuen spokesman did not respond to a request for documentation supporting Kihuen’s claims about the DCCC, Pelosi and Lujan.