Next contestant please

Published July 15, 2004 10:12PM (EDT)

First it was Jack Ryan's fetishes, then came Ditka's temper, now it's Andrea Grubb Barthwell's history of sexual harassment that might sink another Republican Senate hopeful from Illinois. The Associated Press reports that Barthwell, a former Bush administration drug policy apparatchik gunning for the Republican Senatorial nod in the Land of Lincoln, "engaged in 'lewd and abusive behavior' while she served as a top official in the White House drug policy office, an internal inquiry found last year."

"In front of her staff, Andrea Grubb Barthwell made repeated comments about the sexual orientation of a staff member and used a kaleidoscope to make sexually offensive gestures, according to the findings of a March 19, 2003, 'hostile workplace memorandum' prepared by drug policy office staff. The Associated Press obtained the memorandum.

"In an interview Wednesday with the AP, Barthwell said the memorandum overstates what happened, but she said she was wrong for participating in 'inappropriate banter' at a staff birthday party.

"'As the senior person there it was my job to stop it before it got started and I didn't. I in fact joined in,' she said.

"Barthwell said she has not decided whether to pursue the Senate seat, but she said the complaint should not be a factor in her candidacy.

"'I think it's something that was in the past, something we dealt with and it was resolved to everyone's satisfaction,' she said."

"The lewd and abusive behavior finding stemmed from a Dec. 19, 2002, staff gathering. Barthwell made comments about a staff member's sexual orientation after the staff member misspoke in an earlier conversation, the memorandum said.

"'Dr. Barthwell made reference to this staff member sitting on men's laps. A kaleidoscope pointed upward was placed on a chair by Dr. Barthwell as the staff member was about to sit down,' it said.

"'Dr. Barthwell suggested that the staff member would want to cut the cake available for the gathering because the knife was 'long and hard' and he might 'enjoy handling it.' When the cake was cut, Dr. Barthwell referred to the pieces as "most" or 'beefy' and she said to the staff member, 'I know you like it big and meaty."'" With the cast of characters they've lined up so far, we can't wait to see who the Illinois GOP will produce next to face Barack Obama.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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