Missouri’s House Speaker says there was never an intention to create a separate dress code for House interns in response to recent scandals.
Earlier this week an e-mail discussion among some House Republicans of a new dress code being part of an updated House intern policy was denounced by critics as “victim blaming,” in relation to recent scandals involving the sexual harassment of interns.
House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says the dress code idea was never on the table.
“The task force that I appointed did not include any type of dress code as part of their recommendation,” said Richardson. “As we do with a lot of big, important policy issues, we threw the recommendations out to the entire House of Representatives for input and comment. Any time you do that you’re going to get some well thought out ideas and some that probably aren’t so well thought out.”
“We have a professional dress code that covers everybody who works in the House, whether it be members, staff, or interns,” said Richardson. “I feel very confident that dress code is sufficient and we won’t be doing anything further.”
A House Democrat, John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) has asked Richardson to turn that task force into a committee, to allow its work to be done in public and to make sure those affected will have a chance to speak about it.
Richardson says the policy will already have to be considered by the Administration and Accounts committee.
“At some point there will be a public hearing and a vote on whatever policy we have,” said Richardson. “We’re continuing to collect a lot of input from a lot of places, not just from inside the building but from outside the building. I feel very confident that our process has been right to get us to the best policy we could have.”
The effort to update the intern policy began in the wake of the resignation of former House Speaker John Diehl, Junior, after it came to light he was exchanging sexually suggestive texts with an intern. Since then a state Senator, Paul LeVota, resigned effective Sunday amid charges he sexually harassed interns, though LeVota has denied the accusations.