Texas senators push back on sexual assault claims


Highlights

The Daily Beast alleges Carlos Uresti forcibly kissed a journalist and asked a consultant about her underwear.

The report accuses Borris Miles of commenting on the same consultant’s breasts and propositioning an intern.

Two Democratic state senators are pushing back on an explosive report that they sexually assaulted and harassed women at the Capitol.

The Daily Beast published late Wednesday several allegations of misconduct by Sens. Borris Miles of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio. According to the report, Uresti forcibly kissed a journalist, asked a political consultant about her underwear and gave her inappropriate hugs. The report also alleges that Miles touched the hip of the same consultant, commented on her breasts and propositioned a legislative intern. The women making the claims were not identified in the story.

Miles said Thursday night he’s being targeted because of his success.

“Because I’ve shown myself to be an effective voice of the people, I have made powerful enemies who will go to any length to destroy and disrupt my service,” he said in a statement. “I will not continue to address anonymous accusations that attack my personal and professional character as an effective lawmaker.”

Miles and Uresti are facing calls to resign by Annie’s List, a powerful political group that supports Democratic women running for office in Texas.

RELATED: Amid harassment complaints, Texas House panel adopts new policy

Uresti pushed back against the group’s call, saying it’s based on “an unsourced article from the Daily Beast.”

“While the story ends that the people being interviewed for this story ‘asked not to be named,’ such unsourced accusations, without specific information as to time, place or alleged accuser, prevents me from being able to defend myself from completely unfounded innuendo,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Uresti also denied a specific incident referenced in the story about a young woman sitting on his lap at a party. An anonymous source told The Daily Beast that she might have been a staffer.

“While the Daily Beast reporter was correct that I had been seen that night with a beautiful woman; that woman was my beautiful wife, Lleanna, with whom I had exchanged marital vows in June of 2012,” he said. “We then sent the Daily Beast the photograph from that night of my wife Lleanna and I together celebrating the beginning of her first legislative session as my wife.”

Meanwhile Thursday, Senate Democrats have called for investigations into allegations raised in the Daily Beast article.

“Any person in a position of power who engages in such deplorable conduct should be fired or removed,” Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat and chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said in a statement to the American-Statesman Thursday.

Rodríguez said he supports efforts to update the chamber’s sexual harassment policy and called for an independent body to be created to investigate allegations.

“This would allow victims of harassment to feel safe to report complaints and to be protected from retaliation,” he said.

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Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, also called for independent investigations into the allegations, and in a letter to Senate Administration Committee Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, Garcia asked Kolkhorst to call a public hearing to review the chamber’s policies. Garcia also called for a “hotline to report abuse in Texas government.”

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, on Thursday renewed his call for a hearing.

“The Senate must create an effective means for reporting and investigating allegations as well as following through on those findings,” he said. “It must happen now.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he expects a hearing to be called soon.

Miles and Uresti said they want to be part of the discussion.



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