Kirsten Gillibrand: I "wasn't in a place" where I could tell off my harassers

"At that moment, if I could have just disappeared, I would have ... But I had to just sit there and talk to him"

By Katie McDonough

Published September 15, 2014 6:41PM (EDT)

Kirsten Gillibrand          (Jeff Malet,
Kirsten Gillibrand (Jeff Malet,

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told HuffPost Live on Monday that she "wasn't in a place" to tell off a male labor leader who harassed her about her looks, even though she wanted to. "I've just had a baby, I've just been appointed [to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate], I have a lot to learn, so much on my plate, and this man basically says to me, 'You're too fat to be elected statewide,'" Gillibrand said during an interview with HuffPost Live. "At that moment, if I could have just disappeared, I would have. If I could have just melted in tears, I would have. But I had to just sit there and talk to him. ... I didn't hear a word he said, but I wasn't in a place where I could tell him to go fuck himself."

In Gillibrand's new book, she said that one of her male colleagues in the Senate told her not to get too "porky" during her pregnancy, while another told her that he would still find her attractive even if she put weight on because he liked "chubby" women.

Gillibrand received criticism for refusing to name names, but defended her decision during the interview. "It's more important to elevate the debate, to have a national debate about how women are treated in the workplace," she said. "Because in the broad scheme, it's a drag on the economy when you're undervaluing women, nearly half of our workforce, and chronically paying them less and treating them poorly and not valuing them."

h/t Laura Bassett

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Congress Gender Based Harassment Kirsten Gillibrand Senate Sexual Harassment