An Idaho lawmaker who publicized the name of a 19-year-old intern who reported she was raped by another legislator has been stripped of a committee assignment.
Members of the Idaho House of Representatives voted 49-19 on Monday to remove Rep. Priscilla Giddings, a Republican from White Bird, from her seat on the Commerce and Human Resources Committee, for “conduct unbecoming a legislator.” The censure came after an ethics committee found that Giddings used social media posts and a newsletter to disseminate the name of a young legislative intern who reported that she was raped by one of Giddings’ colleagues. The committee also unanimously found that Giddings repeatedly lied and was disrespectful and combative with the ethics committee as they investigated the matter.
Giddings has repeatedly refused to respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press, and on Monday ignored an AP reporter who asked her to comment on the censure.
Giddings faced criticism and complaints this year after sharing links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo and details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media. The intern subsequently faced extended harassment from supporters of the man who was accused in the rape case.
The intern had reported to police and legislative leaders that then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a Republican from Lewiston, had raped her after they went out to dinner. Von Ehlinger denied any wrongdoing and said the sexual contact was consensual. An ethics committee found he engaged in “conduct unbecoming” a lawmaker, and he resigned before the full House could vote on whether to remove him from office.
Von Ehlinger was also criminally charged. He pleaded not guilty to rape and forcible penetration with a foreign object, and is scheduled to stand trial next spring.
On Monday, Giddings debated on the House floor against being censured. She took issue with the ethics committee’s finances, the process the committee used for the hearing, and said stripping her of the committee assignment would actually help her out because it would give her more free time. Giddings also said she shared the link to the post that revealed the young woman’s identity because she felt it was the only article that showed “both sides of the story” and that she wanted to support “due process” for von Ehlinger.
“I would not have done anything differently,” Giddings said on Monday. “I think my intent was pure.”
Rep. Scott Syme, a Republican from Caldwell, said he saw what happened at the ethics committee, and it’s clear that Giddings was evasive in her testimony.
“If you’re not truthful, you’re not truthful and that’s really the crux of the issue here,” he said.
In their report, the ethics committee said Giddings had a First Amendment right to post the link, but that didn’t mean it it was right to do so.
“Like all citizens, she is not free from the consequences of abusing, or imprudently exercising, that right in connection with a personnel matter,” the ethics committee wrote in its report. “Exposing an alleged victim’s personal information may be construed as retaliation, could lead to bullying, and can cause such a chilling effect that future victims do not come forward.”