JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri's Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has called two former interns' claims that state Sen. Paul LeVota made unwanted sexual advances toward them "deeply troubling."
Nixon said Thursday that allegations against the Democratic senator from Independence raise "serious questions" about his ability to serve. Nixon said sexual harassment "must not be tolerated."
LeVota talked with FOX 4 on Wednesday and repeatedly denied claims from former intern Alissa Hembree that he acted inappropriately toward her.
"It's really frustrating that false allegations were made,” he said.
But now the Missouri Senate plans to conduct a review of new sexual harassment claims from Taylor Hirth, a woman who interned for LeVota back in 2010 while he was the House Minority Floor Leader.
Hirth claims LeVota made sexual advances toward her through inappropriate text messages and by inviting her back to his Jefferson City apartment.
In light of those new claims, Republican Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey has announced that an ethics panel will investigate and make a recommendation to the full Senate. Under Missouri law, the senate can expel a member with a two-thirds majority vote.
LeVota has said he’ll stay in office as the state reviews the new allegations.
The latest development ignited a firestorm of responses from other Missouri leaders Thursday afternoon.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “Two young women have come forward with serious allegations against Senator Paul LeVota, some of which have been corroborated by evidence of text messages. I believe Senator LeVota needs to seriously consider whether he can continue to serve.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a democrat, said, “Even as facts continue to emerge, the allegations against Sen. LeVota to date are deeply troubling and raise serious questions about his ability to continue to serve his constituents. Sexual harassment must not be tolerated.”
Other local and state leaders chimed in, as well in a joint statement from Jackson County Legislator Crystal Williams, Missouri Sen. Jill Schupp, Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker:
“The Missouri General Assembly needs to take all appropriate actions against any official responsible for sexual harassment. It also needs to show that this type of reprehensible behavior will not be tolerated by taking specific steps to create a safe and professional environment for all employees, including unpaid interns. Sen. LeVota must do what is needed to restore the public’s trust.”