TAMPA BAY, Fla.(WFLA) — We have seen them in Hollywood, the business world and now in politics — sexual harassment allegations are popping up everywhere.
The latest involved Florida Senate Budget Chairman Jack Latvala (R- Clearwater).
On Friday, the website Politico reported six women who all work in the Florida Capitol have accused Sen. Latvala of sexual misconduct.
Latvala 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” 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.
One of the women described the alleged harassment to politico:
“He reached around the far side of my body and just started grabbing. His hand went around my back and grabbed me around my lower frontal abdomen and then wandered,” she said. “He touched the underside of my breast on that side.”
“It seems as though a lot of that is coming out. I think that is great because women have more courage to stand up and say what happened. I think that is important in the culture,” said local voter Jonathan Starret.
News Channel 8 went to Sen. Latvala’s office in Clearwater on Saturday, but the doors were locked.
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.”
“I think it should be taken very seriously. But I also think there is a change, I would never disregard any claims but considering the quantity of allegations recently I would definitely investigate them,” said voter Daniel Johnson.
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