Kirsten Gillibrand Says Jeff Sessions Shouldn’t Be Attorney General If He Doesn’t Understand Sexual Asssault

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time In

Kirsten Gillibrand has spent much of her career trying to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault — among other things, she co-sponsored the Campus Safety and Accountability Act and invited Emma Sulkowicz, who carried a mattress around Columbia’s campus to protest her school’s handling of rape accusations, to join her at the State of the Union address.

So, as she told WNYC in an interview Monday, she was somewhat mystified by Donald Trump’s pick of Jeff Sessions — someone who does not appear to have a basic understanding of sexual assault — as Attorney General. Sessions stood by Trump after his comments on Access Hollywood were released; when a reporter asked how he’d describe Trump’s words, Sessions answered, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.” On WNYC, Gillibrand said she has doubts as to whether Sessions is the best man for his post.

“I have very grave concerns about Senator Sessions as the head of the Department of Justice,” Gillibrand told WNYC. “And I will of course pay attention to his hearings, and I will of course give him the opportunity to speak out about what kind of a head of the department he’s going to be. But I have to say, those comments are so offensive, and so dangerous. And if he doesn’t understand the basics of what sexual assault is, I don’t know how he can be attorney general. Because, honestly, that’s one of the attorney general’s jobs.

“He has a real role in this. And if he doesn’t understand the basic tenets of what sexual assault is, then I don’t think he has the background and knowledge he will need to be attorney general.”

She added that Trump’s comments should’ve disqualified him from the presidency in the first place. “Somebody who’s bragging about sexually assaulting women should really never be elected to be president of the United States,” she said. “It is not locker-room talk. It is criminal behavior.”

Kirsten Gillibrand: Sessions Must Understand Sexual Assault