Gillibrand: Congressmen called me 'fat', 'porky'

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sits at a Senate committee hearing. Image copyright Getty Images

During her time as a congresswoman and senator in Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand has been called "porky", "chubby" and "fat" - and not by anonymous internet trolls, but by her fellow politicians.

These are some of the revelations Ms Gillibrand shares in her upcoming book, Off the Sidelines, as detailed in a New York Post article published on Wednesday.

The Post goes on to describe other instances in which the 47-year-old senator says she was harassed by her peers.

"Good thing you're working out, because you wouldn't want to get porky," she says she was told while exercising in the House gym.

"You know, Kirsten, you're even pretty when you're fat," another allegedly informed her.

Ms Gillibrand served in the House from 2007 until she was named to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2009. She says she struggled with her weight after giving birth to her second child in 2008, gaining and losing as much as 50 pounds.

According to the Post, one labour leader told her she used to be beautiful - and to win her Senate election in 2010 "you need to be beautiful again".

The initial response to Ms Gillibrand's revelations was one of shock and disgust - the Washington Post's Jamie Fuller called them "jaw-droppingly bad/offensive".

Ms Gillibrand's Senate colleagues seem to think she's "just another piece of meat", writes the Daily Beast's Olivia Nuzzi.

"There is, apparently, no position that a woman can hold that will protect her from men who want to talk to her like she is holding up a sign that says, 'TELL ME HOW I LOOK'."

New York Magazine's Annie Lowrey put together a flow chart to help men determine whether or not to comment about a women's physical appearance (spoiler - it's never a good idea).

Others came forward with their own stories of congressional harassment. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell said the worst Capitol Hill offenders are well known.

"We all had our stories of whom you'd not get in an elevator with and whom you'd protect your young female interns from," she said on her television programme.

Within a day or two, however, the Gillibrand discussion turned from outrage to a parlour game of who, exactly, the senator was referring to in her anecdotes.

If there's one thing Washington won't abide, it's anonymity. Why wasn't the senator revealing her "sources"? It's time for her to name names, they cried.

"Shouldn't Gillibrand name these Senate guys who fat-shamed her?" asked the New York Times's Nick Confessore on Thursday. "Doesn't she kind of have a responsibility to name them?"

Politico's John Bresnahan tweeted that he straight-up didn't buy the senator's stories.

"I challenge this story," he wrote. "Sorry, I don't believe it."

After an ensuing uproar, he apologised for the tweet, calling it "moronic".

Republican strategist/pollster Frank Luntz speculated that Ms Gillibrand wasn't talking because the perpetrators were fellow Democrats.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kirsten Gillibrand takes the oath of office for Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat in 2009

Conservative consultant Rick Wilson agreed: "I suspect if the offending party in the Gillibrand story was a Republican, we'd know it by now."

All of this is too much for Slate's Amanda Marcotte:

"In the real world, when an anecdote shifts to an accusation, the accused immediately denies any wrongdoing and accuses his accuser of being crazy, slutty, or some combination thereof. And should she not be able to produce rock solid proof that the harassment happened, people will take sides and tempers will flare. The accused will likely get away with it, even if he's totally guilty, and the accuser's reputation will be seriously damaged."

Why would Ms Gillibrand want to through that, she asks.

The discussion should be focused on preventing sexual harassment, she says, not on a scandal hunt

"I haven't seen anyone suggest Gillibrand's harassers have a 'responsibility' to come forward, apologise, atone," tweets Jamison Foser of Media Matters. "Fascinating."

Fascinating indeed.

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