The anger-grams have been pouring in here at The Aurora Sentinel since Monday.
That’s when we published a house editorial insisting Democrat Crisanta Duran give up her position as state House speaker for her part in a repugnant sexual harassment scandal at the state Capitol.
The quandary started last week when public radio station KUNC reporter Bente Birkland broke the story that state Rep. Faith Winter had gone public with accusations of extreme sexual harassment by fellow state lawmaker state Rep. Steve Lebsock, both Democrats.
Winter said — and witnesses corroborated — that a drunken Lebsock verbally and physically accosted her at an end-of-session party in May 2016. More women have recently come forward to level similar accusations of sexual harassment. That prompted Duran and others on Friday to call for his resignation, which was the logical move.
But stories in The Denver Post and other media revealed that at the time of Lebsock’s stunt, Duran was Democratic House majority leader. She had been part of the discussion with Winter and former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst regarding what to do about the harassment. Winter, as do many victims of these “legal” assaults, didn’t want to go public so she could protect herself. Her choice is neither unusual nor does it in any way reflect poorly on her.
Several weeks later, Duran was elevated to House speaker for the 2017 legislature. She tabbed Lebsock as chairman of the House Local Government Committee, which is an honor and position of some power. She did this knowing what Lebsock had done a few months earlier, and that other women had said they had similar bad experiences with him, according to Post reports.
The Aurora Sentinel editorial takes Duran to task for that bone-headed move, asking her to step down for using such poor judgment. Duran knew at the time that Lebsock had acted the part of a creepy masher just a few months prior. So why pass over a few dozen other worthy state lawmakers in favor of this guy? Duran’s supporters say it would have aroused suspicion, but others say the Capitol is filled with capricious and often inexplicable antics.
Most important, this is not a private business or club. This is the public’s House, and it must only serve the public’s good. Promoting abusers does nobody any good, including the public. Duran has undermined her own credibility on the issue, which is by no means going away. In the editorial, we called for her to step down.
Since then, we’ve taken huge grief from numerous Democrats and operatives, saying we were off-mark to do anything but point out Lebsock’s sick transgressions.
That’s so wrong, and on endless levels.
Nobody here, nor any other newspaper or TV station that I’ve seen, is accusing Duran of insensitivity or mishandling Winter’s wishes about the incident. But Duran is the House Speaker, appointer of chairpersons and arbitrator of the members. She knew well in advance of appointing Lebsock what he had done, and how recently. This had nothing to do with Winter and everything to do with why in the world would Duran choose a man to become a committee chairman who had done what he did to Winter and others. If this is how Colorado political parties operate, it’s wrong. Seriously wrong.
If I had an employee who did what Lebsock did and kept him or her on to accommodate the wishes of the victim, I sure as hell wouldn’t give the guy a promotion. Regardless of what we assume to be the best of intentions, Duran did just that.
Rape and other assault victim organizations have taken us and other media to task for being “part of the problem” of why women don’t report these offenses. They say it’s because people other than the perp get blamed.
That’s twisting the issue. Duran isn’t responsible for Lebsock’s vile behavior, just for his egregious appointment. One big reason why victims don’t want to rat perps out? It doesn’t seem to do any good. They get promotions.
Duran alone owns this mistake. Not the Sentinel. Not Winter. Not all the creeps in the world who hunt for victims of all sorts. Just Duran. She’s not a victim here, she’s the person in charge who made a bad judgment call, saying it was for the right reasons, and it’s blown up in her face.
And for all of you who have reached out to lecture me about being insensitive to the “real” victims because I just could never understand. Well, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Like a lot of men, I’ve been sexually harassed and assaulted just like throngs of other unfortunate people.
Yeah, me, too.
On several occasions I’ve had to repeatedly tell men, and even women, “no, thanks” “I said no,” and, “I mean it.” I’ve had to struggle against physical attacks, which scared me like nothing else ever has, by people who controlled my job or were vile enough to take advantage of my age and naiveté.
I know how hard it is for women to deal with sexual bullies. My wife is publicly accosted by wannabe mashers all the time. She has to fight them off at grocery stores, ski slopes, the DMV and even at pubs when we’re just hanging with friends. After being pestered recently, one pal turned to her and said, “We just can’t take you anywhere.” Nope.
I don’t have to just imagine how hard it is deal with the fear and shame of ratting out someone for harassing or assaulting me. I know how awful it is. And as excruciating as it is for women to tell people what a guy did to her, most people have to imagine what it’s like for a guy to do the same thing.
So if I knew that one of my old bosses was aware of my supervisor’s past behavior and could have prevented him from doing to me what he did — simply by not promoting him — and he didn’t? That would make for two absolute jerks.
Experience has taught me that this isn’t just about the perps. It’s also about the rest of us who know more than we often say. We too frequently look the other way or just write it off as being annoying. Everyone has to call out racism, homophobia, misogyny and sexual harassment when and where we see it.
So much of this goes on because the perps know they can get away with it, and in some cases, they can even get a promotion.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@AuroraSentinel.com