Whipple rebukes anonymous accusations of harassment

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Whipple rebukes anonymous accusations of harassment

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple answers a question at a student-led forum.

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple answers a question at a student-led forum.

Morgan Anderson

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple answers a question at a student-led forum.

Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple answers a question at a student-led forum.

Wichita mayoral candidate Brandon Whipple denied accusations made in an anonymous video that he sexually harassed interns as a state representative.

In the video, posted Wednesday to a Facebook page called Protect Wichita Girls, silhouetted women describe their experiences with sexual harassment and ask viewers to call on Whipple to withdraw from the race.

The video is paid for by Protect Wichita Girls LLC, which is based in New Mexico and was formed on Oct. 10. The people behind the company are not known publicly.

“He just came up, looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Hey, do your panties match your outfit?’ winked, and walked away,” one woman said in the video.

That quote is almost identical to one that appeared in a 2017 Kansas City Star article. In that article, an anonymous former intern said a Republican senator made the comment to her. Whipple is a Democratic member of the House.

“It’s pretty clear that the video is nothing more than just a hit piece that has been sloppily put together,” Whipple told The Sunflower Thursday, calling the women paid actors.

Whipple denied ever sexually harassing anyone. He said he hasn’t personally seen lawmakers harass interns in the state capital.

“If I witnessed sexual harassment in the capital, I would have stopped it,” Whipple said. “I was mortified when I found out that there was sexual harassment, and that next year, I went up and introduced legislation that would allow victims to come forward even if they signed nondisclosure agreements.”

Another woman in the video insinuated that she was subjected to inappropriate behavior while serving as a designated driver.

“Half the time, he made me the designated driver. Things happened when we were driving,” she said.

In 2017, The Sunflower reported that Whipple asked college interns to be his designated driver during the 2016 session.

“The one incident when a male intern drove a group of male legislators to and from an official event had nothing to do with sexual harassment,” Whipple said Thursday. “That person did not claim to be sexually harassed.”

Whipple disputed that he ever asked a female intern to serve as his designated driver. Both the male intern Whipple referred to and Abbi Hodgson, former chief of staff of the Kansas House Democrats, independently told The Sunflower that Whipple asked a female intern to drive him.

“I think your original story got that wrong, and you guys didn’t follow up and do the due diligence to realize that she was a staffer who was protected as a state employee,” Whipple said.

Whipple did not dispute the 2017 story when it was originally reported.

“Not only has there never been inappropriate behavior, but I’ve never been accused of inappropriate behavior that’s been reported, that’s come to my attention, that has been uncovered,” Whipple said. “And I’m disgusted with the idea that this campaign has gotten so dirty and my opposition has become so desperate.”

The Wichita Eagle reports that the physical address listed in the filing for Protect Wichita Girls LLC traces to a Santa Fe company called High Desert Corporate Filing, which advertises an “instant anonymous New Mexico LLC” for $185.

Whipple said his campaign is hiring New Mexico legal counsel to determine the actors behind Protect Wichita Girls LLC.

Earlier Thursday, Lyndon Wells, who was edged out of the mayoral race in the primary, launched a write-in campaign for the Nov. 5 general election. Whipple insinuated that the timing of Wells’s announcement could be suspect.

“The only reason why Lyndy Wells is getting in on the same day that an LLC is trying to falsely attack me — if you connect the dots, you can come up with your own conclusion on that,” Whipple said.

He said Wells is “running as a spoiler candidate to help Jeff Longwell.”