Speaker Ryan on Sexual Harassment: ‘I Think We’re Having a Watershed Moment in This Country’

By Melanie Arter | December 1, 2017 | 12:02 PM EST

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (Screenshot of NPR video)

(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told National Public Radio (NPR) that the country is having “a watershed moment” with respect to sexual harassment and that the country realizes how pervasive it is and that it needs to end.

“I think we're having a watershed moment in this country. I think this is a defining moment in this country, and I think it needs to be a defining moment in this country. I think we're all horrified at the stories we've been seeing unfold in the last few weeks,” he said.

“I think we're all realizing that sexual harassment in America is absolutely pervasive and it's got to go and we need to end it,” said Ryan. “And nowhere more is this important to set a standard and example than elected officials. We should be held to a high standard. So to that end, we've been holding hearings on this particular issue for how Congress governs itself.”

“The last hearing suggested we should have mandatory training for sexual harassment for members and staff and interns. We just put that in place,” he said.

“We've got another hearing next week, where we're reviewing all of the systems—the procedures and the sense of accountability, so that we can review the entire soup-to-nuts system we have in place and where upgrades and improvements can be had. And I believe what we did yesterday was a first step. We have more steps to go,” Ryan added.

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) both faced accusations of sexual harassment. Conyers denies allegations that he abused his position of authority and sexually harassed multiple women who worked for him. He has stepped down as House Judiciary Committee chairman. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for him to resign.

Franken, who has admitted to groping multiple women, has apologized for his behavior, but refused to resign.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” that Congress paid $15 million in taxpayer funds to secretly settle sexual harassment claims against members of Congress in the past 10-15 years. According to Speier’s office, the money covered more than 200 payouts from fiscal years 1997 to 2016.

Ryan said he wants to see his teenage daughter grow up in a country “where she is empowered and respected wherever she goes and wherever she works in whatever she does.”

“And I think nowhere should that be more obvious and apparent than working here in Capitol Hill. So I think here in Congress, we should set ourselves to standards that we expect of other people and we should set high standards for ourselves so that we can be role models and set examples. And clearly people have been falling short of that and I think we always have to endeavor to do a better job on that,” Ryan added.

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