Following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, Arizona State Rep. Don Shooter delivered a floor speech in his home state in which he attempted to publicly apologize for his behavior. He appeared before his colleagues on Tuesday during a mandatory harassment and discrimination training that came about as a result of the allegations against him — but from the very first line of his statement, Shooter appeared to make light of the #MeToo movement.
“Members, I know you all want to thank me for my part in bringing you here today,” Shooter joked.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, at least nine women — including lobbyists and lawmakers — and one man came forward to accuse Shooter of sexual misconduct. The first person to accuse him was Arizona state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, one of Shooter’s fellow Republicans. The Arizona Republic reported that Ugenti-Rita accused Shooter of relentlessly pursuing a romantic relationship, even after she told him that it was inappropriate.
Shooter publicly apologized to Ugenti-Rita after she made her allegations public, but he then proceeded to blame his behavior on a "public affair" he claimed Ugenti-Rita had with a legislative staffer. Then, in his speech on Tuesday, Shooter suggested that his “own involvement in all of this has been greatly magnified as a result of a complaint that was filed against me for reasons that I believe are largely unrelated to the complaint itself” — implying that though he was there to apologize, he still didn’t completely see the need to do so.
Shooter acknowledged in his statement that he had been defensive in response to many of the complaints made against him. He also admitted that many comments he made over the years — like once referring to his penis as a gun — had "landed badly," and he said that he always apologized when this was the case. However, Shooter’s speech nonetheless contained a significant amount of deflection, as well as an apparent misunderstanding of intent versus impact.
Through his speech, Shooter insisted that he now recognized the insensitive nature of many of his past remarks, but continued to clarify his intentions. He said he hadn’t been aware that what he thought "were welcomed and well-intentioned hugs were perceived as creepy and lecherous." He later went on to say that he once made a "a crass and offensive comment" that he hadn’t at all imagined would be "perceived as sexual harassment."
On each of these occasions, Shooter said that he apologized and attempted to remedy the situation as soon as he realized something was wrong, but seemed to fixate on the fact that he simply "didn’t know" beforehand that certain things were inappropriate. Shooter then said:
I now am acutely aware that not everyone understood my attempts at humor and resented that I did not show the respect and value each individual deserves.
The Arizona Capitol Times described Shooter’s speech as being "peppered with deflection" and "denial." It’s worth noting that Shooter did speak at length about his efforts to improve his behavior, indicating that he is invested in "learning and changing."
However, some of the statements in his apology, coupled with the numerous allegations made against him, may explain why many of the women in the House remained silent once Shooter had finished speaking. Shooter claimed, "It may seem inconsistent with my attempts at humor, but I have lived my life as someone who absolutely reveres and respects women."
An investigation into Shooter’s conduct is currently ongoing, and in the meantime, he has lost his position as head of the appropriations committee.