WASHINGTON — A Democratic U.S. Representative from Colorado has been a chief critic of the “Republican war on women.” But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) has been silent about three women’s claims that a former Democratic colleague waged a personal offensive against them.
DeGette declined two separate requests to discuss recent allegations against ex-Rep. Bob Filner, the mayor of San Diego. Working on the floor of the House of Representatives Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, she did not respond to two interview requests to discuss the matter.
The two Western Democrats worked together for nearly 16 years. Filner signed a November 2011 letter DeGette spearheaded that urged the Obama administration not to retreat from its order that Catholic schools and hospitals must provide contraceptive coverage in their health plans.
After Filner won a tenth term in Congress in 2011, he ran for mayor of San Diego and won. He took office last December, but his tenure has been stormy. The doughty liberal has endured two weeks worth of accusations from women that he groped and made unwelcome gestures and comments.
His former communications director, Irene McCormack Johnson, filed suit in San Diego County court on Monday that he told her to “work without her panties on” and kiss him, according to her attorney, Gloria Allred.
McCormack Johnson said the 70-year-old mayor made her feel “ashamed, frightened, and violated” and filed a lawsuit against him.
Filner denied that he harassed McCormack Johnson, but admitted he “failed to fully respect women who have worked for and with me.” Two other women have also come forward to say Filner behaved immorally toward them.
DeGette’s silence on the allegations and lawsuit contrasts with her public insinuations that Republican policy positions and some lawmakers are anti-woman.
DeGette is the longest serving member in the Colorado House delegation and a chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus.
“It is simply astonishing that Republicans have decided to waste more time in cooking up attacks for their War on Women …” DeGette and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) the two co-chairs of the congressional pro-choice caucus wrote to oppose legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks earlier this month.
DeGette used the phrase “Republican War on Women” four times in a 254-word fundraising letter in March 2012, as correspondent Sean Higgins of Investor’s Business Daily noted.
Despite DeGette’s words, the veteran lawmaker has not acted as if all men are inferior to women. She voted for Steny Hoyer of Marlyand instead of Nancy Pelosi of California for the position of Democratic whip in 2001. Her mentor in Congress has been Rep. John Dingell of Michigan.
DeGette is not the lone progressive Democrat who has kept mum on Filner’s case, as reporter Kate Nocera of Buzzfeed.com reported.
“I have no comment,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said in a brief interview with TCO. “He has to figure it out,” Rep. Henry Waxman of California said of Filner.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she had not heard of the allegations against Filner. Still, a populist House Democrat said cultural liberals in the caucus are holding their fire for a reason.
“This is partisan politics,” the member said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter more freely. “As we saw in (Bill) Clinton’s day, as long as you come around on women’s issue, you’ve got liberals’ support.”
One women’s organization decided to weigh the allegations against Filner in its own way. The National Women’s Veteran’s Association announced Wednesday it has rescinded its invitation to Filner to serve as their keynote speaker at a banquet next month.