Chuck Todd: Welcome back. The Harvey Weinstein story has
brought to light the ugliness, the humiliation, and perhaps most of all the
prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Many of us, men mostly, were not
aware or chose not to be aware of how common this kind of behavior apparently
is. So we decided to do something different here on Meet the Press. This week
we asked every female member of the United States Senate, all 21, if they had
stories that they wanted to share about sexual harassment.
Four senators, all Democrats, said yes. And told us of
experiences early in their careers. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Claire
McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mazie Hirono of
Hawaii. Here now are their stories.
Senator Elizabeth Warren:
He's chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on
Senator Heidi Heitkamp:
He pretty much put his finger in my face and he said,
"Men will always beat their wives and you can't stop ‘em."
Senator Claire McCaskill:
And he said, “Well, did you bring your knee pads?”
Senator Mazie Hirono:
We need to put a stop to this.
Yes, I have a "me, too" story too. I was a baby
law professor and so excited to have my first real teaching job. And there was
this senior faculty member who, you know, would tell dirty jokes and make
comments about my appearance.
And one day he asked me if I would stop by his office, which
I didn't think much about. And I did. And he slammed the door and lunged for
me. It was like a bad cartoon. He's chasing me around the desk, trying to get
his hands on me.
And I kept saying, "You don't want to do this. You
don't want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don't do
this." And trying to talk calmly. And at the same time, what was
flickering through my brain is, "If he gets hold of me, I'm going to punch
him right in the face."
I was a very young state legislator and in my 20s and I was
single. And I was nervous about getting my first bill out of committee. So I
cautiously approached the very powerful speaker of the Missouri House of
Representatives. Did he have any advice for me on how I could get it out of
And he looked at me and he paused and he said, "Well,
did you bring your knee pads?"
I've been propositioned by teachers, by my colleagues, and
you know, you name it.
When I started out as North Dakota's attorney general, one
of the most significant things I wanted to do was I wanted to change the
dynamic of domestic violence. And I had an event when I was speaking and a law
enforcement official came up to me and he pretty much put his finger in my face
and he said, "Listen here, men will always beat their wives and you can't
After several rounds, I jumped for the door and got out. And
I went back to my office and I just sat and shook. And thought, "What had
I done to bring this on?" And I told my best friend about it. Never said a
word to anyone else. But for a long time, I wore a lot of brown.
And then he said, “Well, did you bring your knee pads?” I do
think he was joking. But it was shocking that he would make that joke to a
colleague, even a very young colleague.
And I think I was so stunned, because I thought, "Well,
everybody's going to care about this the way I do. Everybody's going to think
about this the way I do." And I looked at him and I said, "You know,
you might be right. I hope you're not right. But we shouldn't live in a world
where we don't try."
My initial reaction was isn't it a shame that it took
something as horrific as this kind of event to make people feel strong enough
to actually speak up. And that the voices of all these women are so much
stronger and louder together.
You know, I wish I could say that I was surprised. But
knowing my life and what happened to me early in my career, it wasn't shocking
to me. And I understand why so many people keep things like that to themselves.
Statements that are made, observations about our appearance,
these kinds of unwanted attention occurs in a situation where there is an
uneven power. And it's usually the woman who has less power.
What it means now that so many people have spoken out, is
it's a way to say, "We're here for each other." And it's also a way
to say, "No. It's not about what you did. He's the one who stepped out of
line. And this is on him."
We all need to be part of the solution. But I think we have
to achieve something within our families and within our children to say,
"It's not acceptable." If you're raising daughters, to say,
"Look, you may not think it's ever going to happen to you. In all
likelihood, it will." And we should be raising sons to say, "I will
never do this. I will behave differently."
Usually it’s the males who are doing this to women. They
should know that this is not appreciated. And it's not cute. It's not fun.
The first thing that I say is you're not alone. And the
other thing I would say is if you feel diminished, that probably was the
intent. And so don't think you're overreacting.
We have to stick together, but it can't just be a movement
of women. It has to be a cultural movement.
Senator McCaskill: To young women on campuses who have been
sexually assaulted and who are worried that oh, they shouldn't have been with
that guy, or they shouldn't have had anything to drink, or they shouldn't have
been at that party, or they should've gone home with their friends, remember
that does not excuse criminal conduct. You don't have to have perfect judgment
to be a victim of a crime.
Todd: Those were senators Elizabeth Warren, Claire
McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Mazie Hirono. We'll be back in a moment to talk
about how this conversation about sexual harassment and assault will continue
to echo in the days and weeks ahead.