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Trump-backed Nebraska Republican candidate Charles Herbster accused of groping multiple women

Nebraska's State Capitol building in Lincoln
The Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln.

  • Trump’s pick to be Nebraska’s next governor is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
  • Eight women have accused businessman Charles Herbster of inappropriate touching, according to the Nebraska Examiner.
  • Herbster has denied the allegations.

Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations, news that could further upend what has become an increasingly contentious GOP primary in the conservative state.

The Nebraska Examiner, a local independent media outlet, reported on Thursday that eight women, including a current Republican Nebraska state senator, have accused Herbster of sexual misconduct. Six women told the publication that Herbster touched them inappropriately. A seventh woman said Herbster once cornered her privately and kissed her forcibly.

“Being a conservative Republican woman in politics, you just expect to be treated with respect,” one of the women told the Examiner. “To be treated in that way in a public event, in front of everyone, just to prove, I believe, that he could get away with it, and not having recourse, it’s terrifying.”

The Examiner granted anonymity to seven of the women based on the publication’s policy concerning sexual assault allegations and that the women expressed fear of reprisal if they came forward. State Sen. Julie Slama went on the record with her account. Slama said Herbster reached up her skirt and inappropriately touched her during a 2019 event.

Slama’s state Senate office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. In a public statement later on Thursday, Slama said she was 22 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

 

All of Slama’s 12 female colleagues rallied behind the senator in a statement that crosses the Nebraska unicameral’s ideology spectrum. They said that the allegations render Herbster “unfit to serve.” (Nebraska is the nation’s only state legislature that is officially nonpartisan, but the two major political parties still campaign for the lawmakers.)

“This is not a question of politics—it is an issue of character and basic human decency. Charles Herbster’s behavior is completely unacceptable for anyone, especially someone seeking a public office of authority and trust,” Slama and her 12 fellow female senators said in a statement. 

At the same 2019 event, Herbster is also alleged to have groped a different woman’s buttock. Slama said that incident was described accurately. Six women, including the woman Slama says she saw groped, told the publication that Herbster inappropriately touched them when, as the Examiner describes it, “they were saying hello or goodbye to him, or when they were posing for a photograph by his side.”

“The women said Herbster groped them on their buttocks, outside of their clothes, during political events or beauty pageants,” the Examiner writes. “Each woman said she was grabbed, not inadvertently grazed, by Herbster.”

The Examiner said it corroborated each of the six women’s accounts with at least one other witness to each alleged incident.

“I’m scared for any young women that he would be dealing with in the future,” one unnamed woman told the publication. “Don’t send your daughters to work for this guy.”

Herbster’s campaign denied all of the allegations, which are alleged to have taken place between 2017 and 2022. Herbster’s campaign did not respond to Insider’s repeated requests for comment.

“Charles W. Herbster has a lifetime record of empowering women to lead,” Ellen Keast, Herbster’s campaign manager, said in a statement to the Examiner. “His company, farm, and campaign are all run by women. Despite leading hundreds of employees, not once has his reputation been attacked in this disgusting manner.”

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has endorsed one of Herbster’s primary rivals, blasted Herbster in a statement saying sexual assault “is criminal behavior and should disqualify anyone from elected leadership.”

“This is beyond horrible. Charles W. Herbster should beg forgiveness of the women he has preyed upon and seek treatment,” he said. 

Former Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr, the nation’s first-ever female Republican elected governor, called for the men who witnessed Herbster’s alleged behavior to come forward.

“It is shocking to read the allegations against Charles Herbster, of his misconduct and degradation of women. I understand the reluctance of women to step forward for fear of retribution,” Orr said in a statement to Insider. “However, it is my hope that men who have witnessed such behavior should feel responsible to come forward also.”

 

Ricketts, Orr, and Slama have all endorsed Jim Pillen, a member of the state board of regents, in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

The Nebraska Examiner reporter who broke the story, Aaron Sanderford, defended his reporting and the publication’s decision to go forward with the story. The Nebraska Examiner has no connection to the conservative Washington Examiner.

“The allegations against Charles Herbster have been an open rumor in Nebraska political circles for longer than any of the candidates have been in the race, but it was not an easy article to report,” Sanderford, who has spent years covering Nebraska politics, wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.

 

He continued, “These are women who experienced trauma and were extremely reluctant to discuss what happened to them. They are conservative women politically — some backed Charles Herbster — and they had nothing to gain from coming forward.”

Trump’s endorsement of Herbster last October has rankled some of the most powerful figures in Nebraska politics. Gov. Pete Ricketts, who is term-limited and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has criticized Trump for not backing Pillen.

Herbster, who made millions as an executive at a cattle breeding company, has spent over $4 million of his own money on his campaign, The Omaha World-Herald previously reported. A loyal Trump ally, Herbster was present at the January 6, 2021 rally that preceded the insurrection, but he has said that he did not go into the Capitol itself.

Herbster and Pillen have attacked each other over critical race theory, each arguing that they will do more to stop what has become a major issue in GOP politics.

While the state’s 2nd Congressional District is highly competitive, Nebraska has not had a Democratic governor since the late 1990s when future-US Sen. Ben Nelson led the state. Democrats do not hold any of the major statewide offices either. Nebraskans will head to the polls on May 10.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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