Remember That Harass Is Two Words

Discussing today’s AP story about letters from then-legislative staffer (and now state representative) Debbie Boone complaining about current state treasurer candidate Ben Westlund a decade ago, Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon writes:

One thing I do know: Rep. Debbie Boone has endorsed Ben Westlund.

The article mentions three incidents from the letter, more than Westlund admitted to back in 2006 when the issue first came to light:

The letter, written by Boone and dated June 30, 1997, describes separate incidents that year in which Westlund, then a Republican House member, touched her hip, grabbed her upper leg and, at legislative party, “reached up my skirt and rubbed my leg.”

“I lowered my voice and said to him directly that he should knock it off,” Boone said in her letter to the Oregon House chief clerk’s office.

The version in the print edition of the Oregonian has more detail than the online story:

The first incident occurred when Westlund touched her hip. “When I responded with a shocked response, he told me to remember that the term ‘harass’ has two words while looking at me with a challenging stare,” she wrote.

Back when a rumor about this first surfaced in a comment at Blue Oregon it was poo-poohed as insubstantial. At the time, Boone and Westlund portrayed what went on as simply an “inappropriate hug”, and a follow-up post by “blueoregon admin” called it “much ado about nothing,” treating it as an “unsupported claim” and “silly.”

Well, it doesn’t look so silly now.

And despite what Boone says about Westlund being a friend now, it’s highly unlikely that Westlund’s behavior with her was an isolated incident. Westlund was nearly 50 years old at the time he was sticking his hand up Boone’s skirt. Most guys don’t suddenly turn into dicks in middle age. Most of the time, they’ve been dicks all their lives. How many other Debbie Boone’s are there? Is it likely that they’ve all forgiven and endorsed Westlund?

What’s really crazy about this is that Boone’s letter has Westlund making a pun about her ass just two years after Bob Packwood — then a member of the same party in the same state as Westlund — was forced to resign from the US Senate because of charges of sexual harassment. Not too bright.