Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio came under fire after telling colleagues in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday that the way some women on Capitol Hill dress is an “invitation” to sexual harassment.
“I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor,” Kaptur said at a Democratic caucus meeting about sexual harassment, according to Politico. “And what I’ve seen… it’s really an invitation.”
The comment drew gasps.
“Nearly everyone in the room’s mouths were wide open aghast,” one Democratic source told Politico.
Kaptur, who seemed to know that her comments would not sit well with her colleagues, added: “Maybe I’ll get booed for saying this, but many companies and the military (have) a dress code. I have been appalled at some of the dress of… members and staff. Men have to wear ties and suits.”
The backlash was swift – and Kaptur released a statement that detailed the mistreatment she experienced when she was first elected to Congress in 1983.
“I became a refuge for female staffers who had been mistreated by their bosses, some of them in tears many days,” she said. “It is something I carry with me to this day and something I brought up during our Caucus meeting.”
She added that “under no circumstances is it the victim’s fault if they are harassed in any way.”
Kaptur’s initial comments come as Congress struggles with how to address its own post-Weinstein reckoning. Several lawmakers have been forced to resign or retire in recent weeks as a wave of sexual harassment claims and other bad behavior becomes public.