Back in March, Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) was sued for sexual harassment by the wonderfully named Winsome Packer, a staffer for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which Hastings chaired. Hastings and Packer are both black, which shouldn’t matter, but it does.
Not only did Hastings allegedly subject Packer to “unwelcome sexual advances” and “unwelcome touching” over the course of two years, but she claims he and his staff director, Fred Turner, retaliated against her for reporting the incident. Among other things, Packer says she was threatened with termination, pressured to buy Hastings “personal gifts, and make a campaign contribution to him.”
Some of her charges sound like they can be easily verified. For example, she says Hastings asked her, in public, what kind of underwear she was wearing. There should be some way to confirm that, if it hasn’t been done already. I can’t think of any legitimate reason a Congressman would ask a staffer about her underwear in public. It just doesn’t pass the “Weiner Test.”
The suit has prompted an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Rep. Hastings denies all the charges. “I have never sexually harassed anyone,” he said in a statement quoted at Politico. “In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’”
This is a strong denial, because Hastings is an unimpeachable source. Oh, wait a minute, that’s wrong. He has been impeached. He used to be a U.S. District Judge, appointed by Jimmy Carter, but was removed from office in 1989 on eight counts of bribery and perjury, after getting caught by an FBI sting operation. Tragically, that was only a few years before Bill Clinton established that perjury is not a crime for important Democrats.
Hastings bounced back after winning acquittal in a criminal trial, and was elected to the House in 1992. Believe it or not, the Democrats seriously considered putting him in charge of the House Intelligence Committee after they won control in 2006. The Congressional Black Caucus pushed hard for it, despite the fact that one of the impeachment articles passed by the House, but rejected in the Senate, accused him of using sensitive FBI information to warn a friend away from an investigation.
Hastings is confident he will prevail against Packer’s allegations: “I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”
What sort of “personal agenda” does Packer supposedly harbor? Well, she’s an attractive black female Republican. That’s going to set off every targeting sensor in the Democrat Party. Combined with his comfortable perch in a safe seat, from a district that elected him after he was impeached for corruption, that gives Hastings fairly thick insulation from consequence.
Then there is the matter of A Personal Agenda, which happens to be the title of a novel written by Packer. Quoting from a Jamaican literary review (Packer is of Jamaican extraction), the UK Guardian describes the book as “inspired by her own experiences,” and says it “seeks to provoke its readers by examining racial tensions, corruption and sexual harassment in Congress, as well as the impact of immigration to the U.S. and other nations.” There’s little doubt that Packer will be accused of fabricating these allegations to pump up her book sales.
Judicial Watch, which filed suit on behalf of Winsome Packer, nevertheless thinks they’ve got the goods on the slippery Congressman. “The allegations against Alcee Hastings as detailed in this complaint are outrageous,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “Is Congress so far gone that its members think they can get away with the most base sexual harassment of staff?”
Well, they obviously used to be that far gone, Mr. Fitton. Things might be different in the post-Weiner world. We shall see.
Hastings is a very noisy defendant, with a habit of screaming that all charges against him are motivated by politics. He’s not going to accept even a wrist-slap censure, much less go quietly into the Weiner goodnight. There should be some headlines from this case, and probably not the kind of headlines Nancy Pelosi enjoys reading.