I-Team: Kihuen accuser reveals why she spoke up

LAS VEGAS - Nevada Congressman Ruben Kihuen is refusing to resign after allegations he sexually harassed a former campaign staffer.

The I-Team has been speaking with the woman making those accusations. She says she decided to speak up recently for several reasons.

She says she was encouraged by women who spoke up about Harvey Weinstein. She also believes there's probably a lot of women working in campaigns and legislative offices who have had similar experiences but are afraid speaking out will hurt their career. She also says, she felt like she had to say something to help other victims who were too afraid to come forward.

"The Latino vote, now more than ever, is more important than any election that we're ever had before," said then Nevada State Senator Ruben Kihuen in 2015 when he announced his run for U.S. Congress.

That December, a 25-year-old woman named Samantha, who requested that her last name not be used, says she began working as Kihuen's campaign finance director.

By February, she tells the I-Team, Kihuen was making her feel uncomfortable and she knew she wanted to leave the campaign.

She shared text messages with a friend from March of 2016 where she says, "Our candidate says randomly creepy things to me sometimes."

"Put his hand on on my thigh a couple times."

"Asked me weird questions once like if I'd ever cheated on my boyfriend." And said a couple of times he would "take me out if I didn't work for him."

She says in April, she provided the same information to a mid-level staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or DCCC.

She tells the I-Team that the staffer asked what she wanted him to do about it and and she responded she was concerned people on the campaign could lose their jobs since their employment depends on the candidate.

But she never said she didn't want it handled internally.

She also tells the I-Team she had hoped her claims would be investigated and for Kihuen to be replaced by another candidate if perhaps the DCCC asked him to drop out of the race. She says, no one from the DCCC ever contacted her.

She left the Kihuen campaign that month.

Kihuen was elected in Nov. of 2016.

One year later, Samantha shared her story with BuzzFeed News. It was published Dec. 1, 2017.

Kihuen released a statement apologizing if he made his staffer uncomfortable while also saying he didn't recall what she claims happened.

Both state and federal leaders have called for Kihuen's resignation. On Tuesday, he told ABC News he would not resign.

The I-Team has learned there was no investigation by the DCCC. Also, Samantha says no one from the DCCC ever contacted her.

The I-Team tried reaching out to the staffer she says she contacted but he has not returned the phone calls.

The DCCC is calling for Kihuen to resign and has released a statement which says in part:  "We have strengthened our protections for campaign employees..." 

Samantha says she no longer works in politics, in part, because of Kihuen's behavior and he has not contacted her to offer an apology.

A spokesman for the congressman says, as of today, there is no further comment to offer and he is still not resigning.
 


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