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#MeToo Assemblywoman Defends Herself Against Harassment Allegations, But Comments Spark Backlash

Asm. Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), second from the top on the left, was one of the "silence breakers" pictured in Time Magazine's 2017 Person of the Year Issue.

 

The California Assembly woman who’s led the Me Too movement in Sacramento is speaking out for the first time about the sexual harassment allegations against her — even as the investigation into those allegations continues. But some of her comments in the interview are prompting a backlash.

Asm. Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) denies that she grabbed a man’s crotch — and that she forced staffers to play “spin the bottle” with her.

But when asked whether she referred to former Assembly Speaker John Pérez as a “homo,” she acknowledged having used that word in the past — though didn’t remember if she used it about Pérez, who is gay.

“I'm not going to sit here and pretend I'm an angel,“ she told The California Report. “Was I using those in derogatory terms? No. It's almost like I would say I'm a brown person sometimes.”

Garcia’s comments rubbed Pérez the wrong way.

“I was disturbed by the rationalization that the term is the equivalent of calling oneself brown,“ the former speaker said from Tokyo, where he was on vacation. “As somebody who is both brown and gay, I don’t view those terms as being equivalent.”

Pérez told Capital Public Radio he worried about the message Garcia sent to the staffers who heard her use the slur — especially those who might have been gay but not yet out of the closet.

Meanwhile, one of Garcia’s current colleagues has concerns as well. Asm. Evan Low (D-Campbell), who chairs the Legislature’s LGBT Caucus, calls her remarks “upsetting but not surprising” and adds they reflect the struggles his community faces every day.

Garcia took a voluntary leave of absence last month after the allegations emerged while an outside law firm under contract with the Assembly conducts an investigation.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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