Wasilla Republican Senator David Wilson said today the video of a June incident shows that he did not sexually harass a female legislative staff member.
“My phone is off. It never leaves the waist side. It goes from my hand — I’m holding papers — down, comes back up,” he said. “I never bend down, it does not go to the door, it does not go between anyone’s legs. I can guarantee you that shows very clearly on the video. I am a couple of – great distance away from anybody during that conversation that occurred.”
Two news reporters have said Wilson held his cell phone between the legs of the staffer.
Wilson was speaking a press conference he put together, and called for an on-air apology from KTVA for reporter Liz Raines’ coverage of the incident.
And he called on House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham Democrat, and House Rules Chairwoman Gabrielle LeDoux, an Anchorage Republican, to step down from their leadership positions.
“Allegations are being reproduced as facts and lives are being put in jeopardy without a hearing, due process or evidence,” Wilson said. “I hope we can give people the benefit of the doubt before we rush to judgment. I have continuously denied these appalling allegations that are being peddled about me. It did not happen.”
Wilson said a staff member of the Legislative Affairs Agency told Edgmon what was on the video. Wilson said Edgmon then allowed harassment allegations to continue without asking for an investigation.
Edgmon responded in a written statement: “Sen. Wilson crossed the line of appropriate behavior by using a press conference to chastise individuals who came forward as witnesses to an alleged incident of harassment.”
Edgmon said he believes it violates the Legislature’s harassment policy and warrants a serious investigation by the Senate.
Edgmon also said Wilson’s statement about why Edgmon chose to allow the matter to rest is false. Edgmon said he couldn’t both pursue the matter and respect the staff member’s wishes to keep it private and not politicized.
Wilson said the agency has concluded an investigation. He called for the video as well as the report on the investigation to be publicly released in the next week.
Legislative rules say security video may not be released to the public. Senate President Pete Kelly has asked the Senate Rules Committee to hold a hearing to consider releasing the report.
Wilson spoke at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. An hour and a half later, the Legislative Council subcommittee on sexual and other workplace harassment policy met.
Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon said people who make harassment complaints should be updated on how their complaints is being handled.
“People who make complaints don’t know whether their superiors have actually acted on their behalf,” MacKinnon said.
Other subcommittee members say the policy should spell out potential consequences for both lawmakers and legislative employees for harassment.
The subcommittee is expected to recommend changes to the policy before the next legislative session.
Editor’s note: We’ve updated and expanded this story with the responses of the Senate president and House speaker, and additional developments.