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Virginia Republican Leader Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

Virginia’s House Speaker resigned yesterday after a growing number of Virginia Republicans, led by state Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, denounced him for several sexual harassment allegations. S. Vance Wilkins Jr., who led the GOP to a majority in the state’s House of Delegates, resigned six days after The Washington Post reported that he had paid $100,000 to a 26-year-old woman who claims Wilkins made repeated improper sexual advances toward her last summer. According to the Post, Wilkins admitted to paying Jennifer Thompson an out-of-court settlement “to protect the caucus” but denies that he sexually accosted her several times in her office. Two other woman have come forward with allegations since the Post’s report was published.

“I don’t blame anyone for my troubles. Most of them I brought on myself,” Wilkins said in a statement that he read to reporters yesterday during a 45-minute telephone conference. “But times have changed and the rules have changed and what was accepted in the era in which I was raised is strictly off limits today.” Wilkins also said that he was sure that other women were on the verge of going public with harassment complaints against him. He said that colleagues had warned him some years ago to stop what he called his “huggy” ways. Wilkins resigned after members of the Republican caucus, which includes eight women, said they were entirely unsatisfied by Wilkin’s incomplete answers to their questions regarding the accusations. Wilkins met with the caucus for three hours on Monday; the group had scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday to decide his political fate. “The Virginia Speaker’s resignation shows a pervasive change in our culture,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. “People in high places can’t get away with sexual harassment.”

Sources:

The Washington Post 6/13/02, 6/14/02

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