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California Lawmaker, Outspoken Leader Of #MeToo Movement, Accused Of Sexual Harassment


A California lawmaker who has been one of the most outspoken leaders of the #MeToo movement at the state capitol is on leave today, the subject of a sexual harassment investigation herself. Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

BEN ADLER, BYLINE: When the #MeToo movement sparked nearly 150 women in and around the California state Capitol to sign a letter declaring, we said enough. Los Angeles County Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia signed her name to that list.


CRISTINA GARCIA: It's about power. It's about control. In the Capitol, where it's a man's world, oftentimes it's about men testing the boundaries of what they can get away with and how much they can use their power to humiliate other folks who are below them.

ADLER: That was Garcia speaking with Capital Public Radio in October. Weeks later, one of her male colleagues announced he would step down amid sexual harassment allegations, but not for another nine months.


GARCIA: I think he needs to resign, and resign immediately. And I will refuse to work with him.

ADLER: Down in Garcia's district, Daniel Fierro saw the assemblywoman leading the #MeToo movement in Sacramento.

DANIEL FIERRO: It made me angry.

ADLER: In summer 2014, Fierro worked for an assemblyman in a neighboring district, and says an inebriated Garcia cornered him and groped him after a legislative softball game in Sacramento.

FIERRO: The behavior that she is describing as inappropriate and wrong is exactly the kind of behavior that she exhibited with me.

ADLER: And last month, Fierro told his former boss, who reported the incident to the Assembly. An outside law firm is now investigating the claim. In a statement, Garcia says she's certain she did not engage in the behavior she is accused of but will take an immediate and unpaid leave of absence during the investigation.

JESSICA LEVINSON: Opponents of the #MeToo movement simply couldn't buy this level of publicity.

ADLER: That's Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who specializes in political ethics. So how should the movement respond?

LEVINSON: I think that we should hold her to the same standard that we would hold any male legislator.

ADLER: For his part, Fierro says the #MeToo movement is incredibly important, too important to be discounted because of a bad messenger. For NPR News, I'm Ben Adler in Sacramento.

(SOUNDBITE OF DELIA GONZALEZ'S "ROULETTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Adler