Senate candidate Joni Ernst says she was harassed in the military
August 15th, 2014
06:21 PM ET
4 years ago

Senate candidate Joni Ernst says she was harassed in the military

(CNN) - Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst said Friday she was sexually harassed during her time in the military.

Currently a Republican state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, Ernst told various news outlets that she experienced unwanted attention while serving in the Army and, if elected, will work to overhaul how sexual assault cases are handled in the armed forces.

“I had comments, passes, things like that,” Ernst told TIME. “These were some things where I was able to say stop and it simply stopped, but there are other circumstances both for women and for men where they don’t stop and they may be afraid to report it.”

CNN reached out to Ernst's campaign to confirm the comments.

She is slated to speak on the issue of sexual assault in the military at the Iowa Federation of Republican Women’s Diamond Anniversary dinner on Friday.

In a statement, Ernst said she would work with Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York who's been pushing for legislation to take the authority for prosecuting sexual assault in the military out of the chain of command - a position Ernst said she backs.

In that statement, Ernst also acknowledged the inevitable hurdle of gaining support for this position within the Republican Party.

"This will not be an easy challenge. I understand many in my own party in Washington will oppose this plan, as will many in the military and Pentagon," she said. "However, this should not be a partisan issue, and as a woman in uniform, I know that we must act now.”

Ernst told the Des Moines Register that she's "...not doing this to go against (her party)"

"What I am doing is saying: 'This is a problem. It has not been resolved in the past couple decades. If we were handling it properly in the military, we would not have the issues that we have today,'" she said.

The issue has become a major concern for the Pentagon.

Figures released by the Defense Department in May showed a sharp year-over-year increase in the number of sex assault reports in the military. The Pentagon said the 50% jump was largely due to steps to encourage more people to come forward.

Congress has taken steps to address the matter, including legislation approved by the Senate this year that would impose modest reforms to strengthen prosecution.

But Gillibrand's proposal to remove commanders from deciding whether subordinates should be prosecuted was not adopted.

If elected, Ernst would be the first female combat veteran in Senate history. She severed as a company commander in 2003 in Iraq.

Key races to watch in 2014

Polls show that she’s in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the battle to succeed longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who is retiring at the end of the year.

If the Republicans can flip Harkin's seat and five other Democratic held seats, they would win control of the Senate.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2014 • Iowa • Joni Ernst
soundoff (42 Responses)

    Looks like Snooki Palin clone Joni Ernst just blew her teatard cred. She's talking about working with Democrats. There goes her Koch Brothers money.

    August 15, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Chris..E.Al

    Sexual harassment is a serious issue that most democrats dont have a issue with . The worst they ever got was alright to them . And im sure someday they may even try to make IT legal to next ? But remember dont bash them they are a sensitive lot .

    August 15, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  3. Much thunder...little rain

    I am sure left wingers will find something wrong this

    August 15, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  4. stormchaser 101

    Wah,Wah,Wah the boys we're mean to me and wouldn't let me play...grow up quit whining just another not ready for prime time player.

    August 15, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    Republicans really don't care about women being harassed in the military. Nice try to get the sympathy vote.

    August 15, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  6. ustad

    Is it just me or is she really trying hard to milk a very serious situatuion just to her own advantage? Of course taunting, whistling, commenting is toyally uncalled for, but comparing “I had comments, passes, things like that,” to what women are really going thru in the armed forces, seems a little belitteling of their ordealsjust to score a few political points. Whaddya think?

    August 15, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    And yet you represent a party whose sole mission is to take rights away from women to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

    Typical hypocritical GOPTer.

    August 15, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. Chris..E.Al

    Dems thinks it fine or 0k for someone to ask if the other party man or woman is gay or not to do what ? what a lot of ? You know be careful 😦

    August 15, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  9. The Elephant in the Room

    So pull out your gun tough girl.

    Let's see where those much ballyhooed hog castration skills get her.

    August 15, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. Thomas

    Joni Ernst said Friday she was sexually harassed by a democrat portending to be a republican during her time in the military.

    August 15, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  11. Thomas

    So was Ted Cruz .

    Don't Ask , Don't Tell , Green Eggs and Ham .

    August 15, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  12. Name uche agonsi uche agonsi

    lf this is the issue Joni fronts for Senate race, she deserves my sympathy only. Obama has dealt on it at length. She shouldn't personalized it. Like most Repubs she seems out of ideas on what she is going to Senate for.

    August 16, 2014 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  13. don in albuquerque

    Oooooops! Wrong thing to say, Joni. Wasn't smart enough to know the difference between a criminal act of violence and an accident, and now not smart enough to know which hands feeds her. Sexual harassment just does not exist in the world of the GOTP.

    August 16, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  14. Arun

    Amazing she is now trying to come to the middle from all her radical views.

    August 16, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  15. smith

    Lets work to stop all workplace harrasment not just in the military.

    August 16, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  16. Anonymous

    “I had comments, passes, things like that,” Ernst told TIME"

    Most women face this stuff on a daily basis, Ms Ernst. Do you plan on changing that perception as well?

    "In that statement, Ernst also acknowledged the inevitable hurdle of gaining support for this position within the Republican Party."

    Why then is she even in the Republican party, if this is going to be such a hard position for her to gain support? She's stating she is going to work hard to change policy, yet acknowledges she'll never get the support needed in her party for the change she's trying to sell to garner votes from the opposite side of the aisle. What a strange woman this Ms. Joni Ernst is.

    August 16, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. salty dog

    So she's experienced the virtues of being a woman, shocking! Remember rwnj, she can castrate a pig, she may be overqualified, ha! Smart people aren't impressed by any female Republicans, they know their selling their womanhood to be there. It would take a career to prosecute all the crimes Scott Walker and rick Scott committed.

    August 16, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. bcrunner

    Men made passes at her? Harassment is a lot more than that! And, I don't think someone who says she can castrate a pig with such glee has compassion for anything let alone people who are harassed.

    August 16, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Hector Slagg

    Um, Well,
    Joni may be your next Senator from Iowa! Then she is going to take away your Rubber Ducky! You are going to have to get out of your pj's and heave ho!

    August 16, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. just saying

    salty dog
    she can castrate a pig

    which is why she will have no problem beating the democrat she is running against as democrats are just pigs these days. weiner, filner, spitzer, etc.

    August 16, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. Tony D

    Gotta love the Democrat War on Real Women, the women who refuse to kill their babies and stand up for themselves, ones that serve their country. And especially if they aren't Democrats because as we all know, all women must think alike and that means they must follow the leftist dictates.

    August 16, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. sonnie3

    I will be supporting Ernst for many reasons and the Big one is to defeat Dingy Harry. Comments of anti women are heard here on cnn all the time. The posters here just like to degrade women. Very sad.
    Joni had a credible past including the military.
    I do respect that fact very much. All are leaders should come from the ranks of the military so as to understand more than, just a little community organizing. Bet Her college records are not sealed either. God Bless America!!

    August 16, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. sonnie3

    Joni Ernst is here to serve with honor and not here to be served. A true American with American interest in mind.

    August 16, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Johnnie

    She a very good looking woman, of course men in the military would be hitting on her. I guess it is a good sign we haven't turned the military into 100% gays.

    August 16, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. The Democrat Party of Hate

    Why do Democrats hate and attack women who don't think and believe as they do? Aren't you all supposed to be the party of tolerance? I guess it is just another lie, like all the others your party throws out their on a daily basis.

    August 16, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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