WASHINGTON – Rep. Diane Black says she was sexually harassed while she was a member of the Tennessee legislature.
Black, a Gallatin Republican who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, describes in a new article her experiences with what she calls the "Good Ol' Boy culture" and details an incident that she says occurred during her first year in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
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“It was 1998, and having spent my career as a nurse and an educator, I had a lot to learn about the legislative process,” she wrote in a column published Wednesday in the conservative website Townhall. “I immediately figured out that the state House had a ‘good ol' boy’ culture – and learned about the inappropriate actions of some of my male colleagues.”
“One member always seemed to manage to get on the elevator with me, and proceed to back up until I was against the wall and he was pressed against me,” Black said. “I learned fairly quickly to cross my arms with my elbows out so they dug into his back. Another member rarely called me by name and addressed me only as ‘Nurse Goodbody.’ It was objectifying, disrespectful and highly inappropriate for any work setting.”
Black, who did not name the perpetrators, recalled that in 2009, while she was the state Senate Caucus chairman, she called on one Republican state senator to resign after learning of his affair with an intern.
“I firmly believe now what I believed then: as elected officials, we are public servants and must be held to the highest of standards,” she said.
Black, was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1998 and has served in Congress since 2011, is among a number of Congressional members who are pushing for more transparency when it comes to sexual harassment allegations against public officials.
Black and Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, are sponsoring legislation that would bar Congress members from using a secret, taxpayer-funded account to pay settlements or awards for claims of sexual harassment or assault by members or their staff.
The names of any Congress member who already has used the fund to settle such claims would be made public under the proposal, and they would be required to pay the money back, with interest.
Black said in an interview last week with the USA Today Network-Tennessee that she had never personally experienced sexual harassment while serving in Congress.