‘Lift up your parka.’ As more allegations emerge, Westlake says he meant no offense
As Rep. Dean Westlake faces calls to resign, more women have emerged describing a pattern of unwanted advances and sexual remarks that began long before the freshman lawmaker took office.
Westlake said that he has never intended to cause offense. “I grew up complimenting people, whether it’s men or women. I take umbrage to the fact that I’ve been (labeled) a predator and that’s never been the case."
The remarks came in a lengthy interview today with Channel 2 at legislative information offices in Anchorage. The Kiana Democrat has been accused by seven legislative employees of unwanted advances, sexually charged comments and in one case, groping.
“When you’re an elected official, we expect more from you,” said Anna Sattler, an Anchorage woman who said Westlake, 57, acted inappropriately toward here during an encounter about three years ago at the Dena’ina convention center. Westlake hugged her and commented that he could tell her bra size from the hug, she said.
As she walked away, she said he texted her to “lift up your parka.”
Westlake said he does not remember this incident. In other interviews, women who said they did not want to be identified because they were worried about repercussions described remarks or texts they had received from Westlake -- during workplace encounters -- that made them uncomfortable in the years before he took office.
Here are excerpts from today’s interview, edited for length and clarity.
“I’ve never understood it to be anything other than genuine affection, genuine admiration when I tell someone they’ve got gorgeous hair, or whatever the case may be, or man you look good today.”
“That is, that aptly is.”
“You know, I don’t think so, I really don’t think so. It doesn’t sound like it. If I did, what it is, is just an attempt at humor. Crude, terrible. In terrible, in retrospect, never should have happened if it did.”
“I would assume so.”
“It just, OK, no. … no. No I didn’t touch any butts."
“He can’t discuss it. That allegation is a confidential personnel matter, he can’t discuss.”
“No I don’t. I absolutely don’t remember that.”
“What I do is, I do not remember that. If I said anything untoward or anything like that, it’s me trying a sense of humor that I thought was OK. And it isn’t OK. Not by any stretch of the imagination are actions like that OK. They are reprehensible. There are things that I think are humor where the other person doesn’t think that.”
“I may have made someone uncomfortable but I sure wish they would have told me that.”
“Probably. I think every one of us, maybe. I don’t know. Has done things that we regret. Like I said in my letter. You don’t realize how inappropriate they can be. How hurtful they can be. And I want to take this as my opportunity to learn."
“I absolutely want to learn from this. I owe the people that voted me in here that. I owe them that dignity that. I owe them for this seat I sit on. It doesn’t belong to anyone but them.”
“So the opportunity is there at the next election. You dislike what I’ve done. You believe whatever rumor may be in there. That’s your prerogative. You are an American citizen. Vote your conscience. That’s all I say.”
“Was I ever investigated for sexual harassment. I believe so. Yes.”
“I won’t say. Every institution I’ve ever worked for I respect, and I’ll leave it at that.”
“I think if I’m going to step (out) of the office, it’s going to be the people that decide. And while I respect the party leadership, they’re not the ones that cast their vote where I got to sit down there in Juneau. It wasn’t the Democratic Party that decided whether I get to sit in Juneau, and it wasn’t the Republican Party that decided whether I sit down in Juneau. It was up to the people in House District 40. It’s there resources. I’m there to protect and defend their resources."
“Ladies, that would never happen. The thing is, I absolutely respect them for doing this. There is not a one of them that I don’t respect for doing this. They should be heard. By the same token, the accused should also be heard. And there should be a respectful thing there. They have every right to do it and they should. They really should. I will be the first one fighting for that down in Juneau, they should be protected.”