Old accusations that the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye forced his Hawaii hairdresser to have sex have with him received new life, thanks to a blog in the New York Times Monday.

In its inaugural edition of First Draft, a “morning briefing for politics,” the Times reports that the late senator squeezed the waist of fellow Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and told her, “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby!”

No source is cited other than “people with knowledge of the incident.”

The item stems from Gillibrand’s revelations in a memoir published last month how her male colleagues “felt free to comment rather vividly on her weight,” the blogs explains.

A spokesman for Gillibrand “would neither confirm nor deny that Mr. Inouye was the unnamed senator in the incident,” the Times reports. “Ms. Gillibrand in her book described the senator only as ‘one of my favorite older members of the Senate.'”

Dan Inouye 2010 at Civil Beat

Sen. Dan Inouye during a visit to Civil Beat’s offices in 2010.

Civil Beat

The Times mentions the “all but forgotten chapter” in Inouye’s career, something Civil Beat revisited in an article in April 2010. That story focused on how Inouye that year was expected to be easily re-elected (he was) even as many of his veteran colleagues faced serious electoral challenges.

It was in Inouye’s 1992 race, however, that his Republican opponent, Rick Reed, secretly taped a conversation with Inouye’s hair dresser “alleging she had been sexually abused by the senator” and used it in an attack ad.

Inouye said the allegations were unfounded, but the story made headlines nationally. Some pointed out that the accusations prompted little action in Hawaii such as calls for Inouye’s resignation or an investigation into the matter. As Civil Beat noted, a New York Times article attributed “the relative silence to the one-party dominance of Democrats in the state.”

Inouye won re-election with 208,266 votes to Reed’s 97,928 votes, or 54-26 percent.

The Inouye-Gillibrand story has already made the rounds of other major media outlets. Salon, for example, pointed out that after the alleged 1992 assault accusations broke, “nine other women came forward with stories of being sexually harassed by Inouye. None of the women wanted to go forward with their claims.”

The Salon writer, Katie McDonough, has this to say about Gillibrand’s allegations:

So now we have a villain for our story, and that “national debate” has transformed into a conversation about what, if anything, this means for Inouye’s legacy.

But the other thing this illustrates, that a civil rights pioneer with a solidly progressive record on issues like reproductive freedom, equal pay and voting rights could also be a man who is alleged to have harassed and assaulted women, is the knotty and complicated truth about violence against women in our culture. That it doesn’t fall neatly along ideological lines. That’s it’s everywhere. …

McDonough is Salon’s politics writer and focuses on gender, sexuality and “reproductive justice.”

Gillibrand was the author of a bill to remove prosecutorial decisions for military sexual assaults and other felonies from the military chain of command, a measure that was narrowly defeated in the Senate in March.

That same month, the Senate approved 97-0 legislation from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), called the Victims Protection Act. The act “boosts protections for victims of military sexual assault” but “keeps the current military justice system intact,” according to The Hill.


About the Author