Sharon - posted on 11/03/2009 ( 13 moms have responded )
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) had a heated exchange with a constituent over the weekend when she asked him why he opposed a bill that will protect the rights of some rape victims to take their attackers to court.
The bill stems from a 2007 case in which a Halliburton employee accused several co-workers of raping her when she was working for the company in Iraq. Her employment contract specifically required her to settle her complaint in arbitration rather than in criminal court. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sponsored an amendment to the defense spending bill to block federal funding from government contractors with similar employment contracts. Vitter joined 29 Republicans in opposing the measure, which passed the Senate 68 to 30 in October. Republicans at the time said it would give Congress too much influence over Pentagon contracts.
At the weekend event, a woman, who has not been named in the media, approached Vitter after a health care town hall event that the senator sponsored in Baton Rouge. A video of the encounter shows her speaking to the senator as he is leaving, saying, "Senator, I am a rape victim."
Vitter stops briefly to speak with her, but the two begin to speak over each other once the discussion turns to the Franken amendment.
Eventually Vitter says, "You realize President Obama was against that amendment and his administration was against that amendment?"
She responds, "But I'm not asking Obama. I'm asking you."
"Do you think he's in favor in rape?" Vitter asks rhetorically. "No." He then walks away and leaves the building.
As he walks away, the woman calls out, "What if it was your daughter?"
A staffer from the Louisiana Democratic Party taped the exchange and posted on the party's YouTube channel. Kevin Francks, a spokesman for the Party said the woman is a New Orleans native who went to the event to protest Sen. Vitter's position on the Franken bill, but that the Democratic party did not coordinate her comments to the senator or know of her prior to this weekend's interaction. Vitter is up for reelection in 2010.
"I think it was disconcerting that Sen. Vitter did not appear to give this rape survivor the time of day," Francks said. "I doubt he would have turned his back if she had been a representative of Halliburton."
Sen. Vitter's office did not respond to requests for comment on the event, but the senator did speak with a local television station at the town hall, which he said was organized so that he could hear from his constituents about their concerns. "I think people's biggest frustration is that they think they're being shut out of the debate and they just aren't heard in Washington," Vitter told WBRZ-TV.
Video of Vitter's confrontation with the woman is below.