At least 138 government officials, in both elected and appointed positions, have been publicly reported for sexual harassment, assault, misconduct or violence against women since the 2016 election, according to an analysis my colleagues and I conducted.
Three in every four of these officials have left or been ousted from their positions. But as many as 33 will remain in office by January.
Our study of those accused, posted online on Nov. 9, tallied reports of allegations of sex-related misconduct by government officials in the media over the past two years. Although these reports are likely the mere tip of an iceberg of sexual misconduct, they are yet another sign that #MeToo is slowly beginning to disrupt the power structure.
#MeToo accusations of government officials
Even after the rise of #MeToo, among survey respondents who said they had experienced workplace harassment in the past year, 76 percent did not report it. Many victims fear retaliation or think that nothing will change, concerns that may be heightened when the perpetrator holds a position of power – such as a government official.
We used tools like LexisNexis and Google News to search for national, state and local media stories on accusations of sexual harassment and assault published between November 2016 and October of this year. We found that the #MeToo movement, inspired by an October 2016 New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein, initially spurred a series of public accusations of government officials. Allegations reported in the media have since dropped off.
Most of the accused officials in our findings have since fallen from power. Of the 25 appointed officials, 23 have been fired or resigned. Of the 111 elected officials reported, 76 are no longer in office.
What’s more, some of these officials also face legal action, including seven civil lawsuits and 12 criminal charges. This type of accountability is historically unprecedented.
Nonetheless, of the 27 government officials accused of sexual misconduct who ran for office in this year’s midterm elections, 23 were reelected or elected to a new government position. These statistics are consistent with typical election trends, considering that an average of 92 percent of state legislators are reelected in any given election year. So, for those who did not step down and sought reelection, sexual misconduct allegations appeared to have little influence on the outcome.
Who’s accused and where
Those accused include state legislators, members of U.S. Congress, and other elected and appointed officials. All but three of the 138 people accused in our data set are men.