Commentary by Eleanor Smeal The Senate Ethic Committee’s stunning recommendation to expel Senator Packwood sends a strong message to the Senate and the Nation that women have at last been heard. Sexual harassment is a serious offense which won’t be ignored. Senator Boxer and the courageous women from Oregon, who have led the fight, have made the workplace safer for all American women.
Tragically, Senator Packwood still does not seem to understand the seriousness of the charges against him. In a press conference, he dismissed the accusations as nothing more than “overeagerly kissing women.” Sexual harassment of an employee or an intern violates the victim and it violates the law.
At a press conference immediately following the vote, Packwood focused on procedural questions and the fact that he had not received public hearings. For nearly three years women have tried to be heard by the Senate. Women’s leaders and women’s organizations have, from the beginning, repeatedly requested public hearings. At Senator Packwood’s own request and with his vigorous debate, the Senate voted not to hold public hearings. The time for procedural questions has passed. Women and men of both parties on the Senate Ethics Committee have voted to recommend expulsion. Clearly the Senate has finally received the message from women that sexual harassment cannot be tolerated in the Senate or the workplace.