‘Fake news’: State Sen. Jack Latvala responds to sexual harassment, groping allegations

State Senator Jack Latvala, Rep.

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) hit back at a POLITICO report on allegations of sexual harassment and groping.

On Friday, the website reported six women who all work in the Florida Capitol have accused State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) of sexual misconduct.  Latvala, the state Senate’s budget chairman, currently represents portions of Pinellas and Pasco counties. He’s also in the middle of the 2018 race for Florida governor.

The women said they felt “degraded and demeaned” when Latvala “touched their buttocks or other private areas” and used demeaning language when talking about their bodies.

One woman claimed Latvala would grunt in her ear while giving her “lengthy” and “painful” hugs, the report said.

According to POLITICO, the women refused to be identified for fear they would lose their jobs.

The women said they chose to come forward following Latvala’s remarks on sexual harassment, in which he said he’s never been accused of sexual misconduct.

“We had six accusers.  Five of them said that he physically groped them,” said Marc Caputo, who helped write Politico’s story.  “In another case, a woman said he would put his hand on her buttocks he would he would make sure to brush against them, sometimes bump into them, brush against their breasts.”

In a statement released Friday, Latvala slammed the report, calling POLITICO a fake news entity, and the article, a smear campaign:

It’s hard to confront anonymous accusers, and even more difficult when the news is manufactured by a fake news entity like Politico who gave me less than a half hour to respond to this smear campaign. I unequivocally deny the allegations that have been made against me. And I find it interesting that these anonymous complaints have only come forward after I began my campaign for governor…If my political opponents want a fight, then it’s a fight they will get.”

Before he released the statement, POLITICO said Latvala reiterated his claim he’s never had a complaint filed against him.

“The Senate provided you with a letter that I have never had a complaint filed against me in 16 years,” said Latvala. “I’m sure that you have handpicked people and you are going to let anonymous people have this kind of impact on the career of a guy who has been there for 16 years.”

“Govern yourself accordingly,” he told the reporter.

The Florida Senate President called the accusations “atrocious and horrendous” and said, “any allegation will be immediately and fully investigated.”

While the head of the Florida Democratic Caucus is more forceful, saying, “I call on President Joe Negron to immediately remove Senator Latvala from his role as appropriations chair.”

Latvala said he’s talking to an attorney about legal action to clear his name.

Stay on WFLA.com for more updates on this developing story.

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