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Claire McCaskill: There Was “A Lot Of Sexual Harassment” In The Missouri State Legislature In The 1980s

"Well at the time, if you went and looked at the highest paid assistants in peoples offices, almost every single one was having an affair with their boss. There's that," the Missouri senator said in a radio interview last year.

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In a little-noticed interview from last year, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill described the state's legislature during her time there in the 1980s as being full of sexual harassment.

"To say that there was some sexual harassment would be an understatement, there was a lot of sexual harassment," said McCaskill to St. Louis public radio's Politically Speaking.

McCaskill also said that "at the time, if you went and looked at the highest paid assistants in peoples offices, almost every single one was having an affair with their boss."

The senator added she was hazed during her time in the legislature.

"There was some hazing by some of my classmates in the legislature that were lawyers, where they kind of formed a club to see if they could screw with my legislation," she said.

McCaskill served in the Missouri state legislature in the early 1980s when she was in her late 20s and early 30s.

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Here's the transcript:

HOST: But I just kind of wanted to ask, as the first female elected US senator, what was it like entering legislative politics in the early 80's. Was it different because of your gender or anything like that, and how kind of were you perceived when you entered politics?

MCCASKILL: Well you know it's funny because I've been working on a book, and this chapter I've just been working on. It was an interesting time, because I was the only woman who was a lawyer, and most of the women down there - not all - but a lot of them had gotten there because of their family or their husbands.

HOST: Yeah, especially back then.

MCCASKILL: Yeah, it really wasn't as much…and so it was… I mean, I had great role models. Annette Morgan and Karen McCarthy, who were members of the house that were also from Kansas City, and we — they were terrific, but it was a tough time, and there was some hazing by some of my classmates in the legislature that were lawyers, where they kind of formed a club to see if they could screw with my legislation. So there were times that it…I had to have a sense of humor. You had to, I mean you have to make a choice at some point. Are you going to be a victim or are you a leader? But to say that there was some sexual harassment would be an understatement, there was a lot of sexual harassment.

HOST: Really? This is, this is in the state capitol?

MCCASKILL: Oh yeah. Well at the time, if you went and looked at the highest paid assistants in peoples offices, almost every single one was having an affair with their boss. There's that. I shouldn't have said that, that's in the book.

HOST: Long pause!

[laughter]

MCCASKILL: It will be in the book!

HOST: The reason I asked that question, you know as someone who followed the legislature for years as a reporter, I was just curious how it was back in the 1980's because as Jo has mentioned many times on this show I wasn't even born yet when you entered the legislature, and I'm sure it was a different environment and experience than it is now, but I think even now women in the legislature, whether Republican or Democrats, still kind of deal with the issues since it is such a male-dominated entity.

MCCASKILL: Yeah, and it was a different time and there were — I was single, and you know I wasn't married. I used to make the joke — somebody on the floor of the house said, 'you know, I've got the American dream. I've got the family and kids and my home', and I'm like going well what am I, the American nightmare? I rented and didn't own. I had to borrow pets for the pictures for my brochures, I mean I didn't even… I was not the norm down there in many ways, because most people were not single and most people were not young, and I was in my 20's, and so it was an interesting…

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

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