U.S. lawmaker probed on sex reports, second congressman denies charges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee said on Friday it had begun an investigation into public reports that Democrat Ruben Kihuen engaged in sexual harassment, and a second lawmaker denied a former aide’s allegations of sexual misconduct.

FILE PHOTO: Nevada State Senator Ruben J. Kihuen speaks on the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The ethics panel said that announcing the probe was not a sign the committee already had determined the Nevada representative violated any rules.

“As I’ve said previously, I intend to fully cooperate, and I welcome an opportunity to clear my name,” said Kihuen in a statement provided to Reuters.

The news website Buzzfeed has reported that Kihuen, currently finishing his first year in Congress, harassed a staff member on his 2016 political campaign, and on Thursday there were multiple reports of an anonymous lobbyist’s description of his unwanted advances. Reuters has not independently confirmed the reports.

Lawmakers from both U.S. political parties have recently been ensnared in allegations of sexual misconduct, prompting the committee to launch a probe this month of all House members and their staffs.

On Friday a second Democratic congressman, Bobby Scott of Virginia, was accused by former legislative aide Macherie Reese Everton of touching her leg and back without permission in 2013 and offering to advance her career in exchange for sex and said she was wrongfully dismissed from her job.

Scott, who has served 25 years in Congress, rejected Everton’s charges and said he had never sexually harassed anyone.

“I absolutely deny this allegation of misconduct,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that this false allegation will be seen for what it is when the facts are adequately reviewed.”

Reuters has not independently verified the claims.

This week Republican Representative Blake Farenthold said he would not seek re-election after accounts surfaced that he created a hostile work environment.

In a Facebook post, Farenthold denied allegations of sexual harassment by former staff members but admitted he allowed an unprofessional culture to flourish in his Capitol Hill office.

Members of Congress are working on legislation to update the body’s rules on sexual harassment.

Representative Carolyn Maloney said she will introduce a bill on Friday that says companies cannot block sexual harassment victims from publicly disclosing the details of their allegations, which often are included in settlement agreements.

Allegations of misconduct in recent weeks have also been made against movie-makers, television interviewers and other men in the private sector.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Clive McKeef