USA lawmaker behind #MeToo push is accused of groping male staffer

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia center speaks during a meeting on climate change in Herbert on Nov. 3 2017

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia center speaks during a meeting on climate change in Herbert on Nov. 3 2017

In a news that could put the whole #MeToo campaign's credibility at risk, Cristina Garcia, the person behind the #MeToo movement has herself been accused of sexually harassing a legislative staffer.

But Daniel Fierro of Cerritos told POLITICO that in 2014, as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia, a powerful Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Legislative Women's Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee. He said Garcia, who appeared to be drunk, stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and tried to grope him before he was able to leave the situation. Fierro never reported the incident as he didn't feel it was a "life-damaging experience".

But Fierro did inform Calderon's communications director Lerna Shirinian. In addition, Garcia only learned the specifics of the sexual harassment allegations from Politico.

The head of the Legislative Women's Caucus, Garcia who is a leading figure in the state's anti-sexual misconduct movement, learned on January 23 that a complaint was filed against her but no detail was given, a spokeswoman for Garcia, Teala Schaff said.

She was one of more than 140 women who signed a letter last fall decrying what they called a "pervasive" culture of sexual harassment in the California legislature and in politics generally. In the past year, she has become a leader in the state's efforts to combat sexual misconduct and an outspoken voice in the #MeToo movement that has swept through the country.

On Twitter she wrote of her inclusion: "I didn't know I was part of the story". Garcia told the New York Times in 2017 that she was one of the women sexually harassed in the capitol during the course of her work, which fueled her passion and drove her to fight against those who subject women to unwanted advances.

"She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone, " he said. Fierro says she then attempted to grab his crotch as well, but he quickly walked away. "I refuse to work with (Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra) and anyone who takes part in harassment or assault", she tweeted in October after it was reported Bocanegra had been disciplined in 2009 for groping a colleague.

A prominent Sacramento lobbyist, who did wish to be identified, has also come forward with sexual harassment allegations against Garcia. "I was four inches from her, eyeball to eyeball - and I said, 'That ain't gonna happen'". "I can also say I have zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values". According to Politico, Calderon referred the matter to the Assembly Rules Committee, which began an investigation.

"Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously and I will participate fully in any investigation that takes place", she said, while adding that the purported victims had never complained.

"As a vocal ally of the #MeToo and #WeSaidEnough movements, I am shocked and disturbed at the very troubling allegations related to California Legislative Women's Caucus Chair Cristina Garcia".

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