Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said in an interview Tuesday that his colleague Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who recently came forward with stories of sexist treatment by members of Congress, should back up the accusations and “name names.”
“First of all, it was not me,” the senator told Steve Malzberg of Newsmax TV as the two men shared a laugh. The exchange was flagged Wednesday by Buzzfeed.
“Quite frankly, I have never seen that kind of behavior in the United States Senate,” Johnson said. “It’s actually a pretty collegial place, pretty professional.”
When Malzberg pressed him on whether Gillibrand could have been making the stories up, Johnson responded, “I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there, so I can’t express an opinion.”
While promoting her upcoming book, Sen. Gillibrand shared stories last week with People magazine of sexist treatment from her colleagues. A reporter from Politico initially said on Twitter that he refused to believe her stories, but he later backed down and apologized.
Throughout Tuesday’s interview with Johnson, Malzberg appeared to suggest that Gillibrand may have been lying, protecting Democrats (echoing Republican pollster Frank Luntz), or even using the stories in a way to help Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential campaign in 2016.
“You don’t think she’s laying the ground work for a Hillary run?” the host asked. “You know, to portray the Senate as an old boys’ network and poor women are treated this way and that way?”
“Well, if you’re gonna throw out accusations, my guess is, you probably ought to name names,” Johnson said.
“You gotta give people a chance to defend themselves,” the senator added.