The statement from the California Democrat comes in response to allegations that Kihuen sexually harassed his finance director on the campaign trail last year.
“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign. The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward,” Pelosi said. “In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on the freshman Democrat to resign on Friday.
“Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign,” New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján told BuzzFeed .
BuzzFeed reported Friday evening that the former Kihuen staffer, known only as Samantha to protect her identity, quit her job during the 2016 campaign because Kihuen — then still vying for the Democratic nomination in the 4th District — propositioned her for dates and sex. She declined. She was 25 at the time, and Kihuen was 35. Samantha also alleges Kihuen repeatedly touched her thigh.
Kihuen responded in a statement his office provided to BuzzFeed.
“The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so,” Kihuen said.
Samantha began working on the campaign in December 2015 and quit in April 2016. She informed a “mid-level staffer” at the DCCC that she was quitting because Kihuen had made her “uncomfortable.” That staffer told BuzzFeed he didn’t think Samantha wanted to take the complaint higher up at the committee. He says he only told one other DCCC staffer. Both DCCC employees are no longer at the committee, according to BuzzFeed.
After she left, that second staffer brought Samantha’s phone call up with Kihuen’s campaign manager Dave Chase, who’s now managing former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign for Arizona’s 2nd District. Chase told BuzzFeed he asked Kihuen about it at the time, but the candidate denied anything inappropriate.
“I believe Samantha and wish I had known her specific allegations when I confronted Ruben after she left the campaign or in time to stop what took place,” Chase told BuzzFeed.
Kihuen won 40 percent of the vote in a crowded Democratic primary in June. He went on to defeat GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy — who led Roll Call’s list of the most vulnerable incumbents for much of 2016 — by 4 points last fall.