Controversies

Nebraska state senator could face expulsion for improper online behavior

FILE - In this March 29, 2016 file photo, Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion, speaks during debate in Lincoln, Neb.

FILE - In this March 29, 2016 file photo, Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion, speaks during debate in Lincoln, Neb.  (AP)

A Nebraska state senator could face expulsion from the Legislature for a pattern of questionable behavior that includes cybersex on a state computer and posting a joke on Twitter implying that Women's March protesters are too unattractive to sexually assault.

Lawmakers on Wednesday will debate whether to expel state Sen. Bill Kintner from the Legislature, a move with no precedent in recent history.

Kintner announced Tuesday evening that he will hold a press conference before the scheduled vote to announce his future plans.

Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer said he's confident lawmakers will expel Kintner if he doesn't resign, although a long debate could delay the vote for several days.

Kintner drew fierce criticism Sunday when he retweeted Los Angeles talk show host Larry Elder, who mocked a picture of three women with signs protesting Donald Trump's comments about touching women inappropriately. Above the photo, Elder wrote: "Ladies, I think you're safe."

"We are in totally unchartered waters here," said state Sen. John Kuehn, a fellow conservative who has implored Kintner to resign.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a longtime adversary of Kintner's, called his behavior "disgusting" and demanded that other senators pressure him to resign. Chambers has also said that the behavior is dragging Kintner's wife, who works for Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, through a series of public embarrassments. Ricketts has also called for Kintner to resign.

"This man... has no respect for his own wife," Chambers said.

Kintner did not respond to phone or text messages Tuesday seeking comment, but his office released a statement that said: "I understand my colleagues' concern about the retweet I sent this weekend. I am very troubled by the liberal activist campaign that is using my mistake on the tweet to escalate calls for my resignation."

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He is an outspoken conservative Republican in the ostensibly nonpartisan Legislature, comprised of 32 Republicans, 15 Democrats, one Libertarian and Chambers, a liberal independent.

Kintner said he had not decided whether he'll stay in office or resign. In his statement, he argued that Chambers has been pushing to expel him from office since last summer.

"He has made it obvious that he will use any means, including lies and cheap shots at my wife and myself," the statement said, without elaborating.

Kintner admitted last year to having cybersex on a state computer with a woman who later tried to blackmail him, but refused to resign. His opponents at the time didn't have enough votes to expel him.

Lawmakers said they've been bombarded with calls, emails and letters from constituents outraged by Kintner's behavior. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said she has received so much correspondence that she couldn't work on other issues.

"We have a serious and continued pattern of bad behavior," she said.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, who has urged Kintner to resign, warned against taking quick action against Kintner without allowing him due-process rights to defend himself.

"However bad the conduct is or was, the man has got a right to prepare a defense," Schumacher said.

Kintner's history of offensive statements has made even some of his conservative allies cringe.

In 2015, the Nebraska Latino American Commission condemned Kintner for repeatedly using an ethnic slur during a debate over allowing driver's licenses for certain youths brought to the country illegally.

Some were bemused and others offended by his 2013 comment to a newspaper, which asked him what he considered the biggest mystery. Kintner responded, "Women. No one understands them. They don't even understand themselves."

Kintner, 56, was elected in 2012 to represent a largely rural and suburban district south of Omaha. He is up for re-election in 2018.