US lawmaker told to stop hugging colleagues

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US lawmaker told to stop hugging colleagues

Senator Bob Hertzberg reprimanded following an assault investigation

Robert Hertzberg
Robert Hertzberg

The California Senate reprimanded Sen. Bob Hertzberg over his habit of hugging people following complaints by two female legislators and a male sergeant-at-arms.

Hertzberg, who is Jewish, received a reprimand for his trademark hugs in a letter sent to him by the Senate Rules Committee, the Sacramento Bee reported Thursday.

“Any further similar behavior will result in the Rules Committee recommending more severe discipline,” the letter read.

The Senate launched an investigation into Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat, after former Assemblywoman Linda Halderman alleged in mid-December that he pinned her in his arms and thrust his groin at her. She described the encounter in a Capitol hallway shortly after she was elected in 2010 as an assault, the Bee reported.

A probe concluded that Hertzberg likely hugged Halderman on one occasion but did not substantiate complaints that he hugged her multiple times in an unwanted manner, the report said. It found evidence of similar encounters with other people in 2014 and 2016.

The letter is the third time that the Senate has counseled Hertzberg about unwanted touching, according to the investigation.

In a statement, Hertzberg said he understands that he “cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior.”

Hertzberg, who served as Assembly speaker from 2000 to 2002, previously apologized to “anyone who may have ever felt uncomfortable” and pledged to alter his greetings. He said he did not specifically remember any encounters with Halderman.

According to a profile in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Hertzberg’s grandparents were all immigrants from the Russian Pale of Settlement. His father, a lawyer, was fluent in Yiddish, and in 2016 Hertzberg wrote a booklet, “Yiddish for Legislators,” which he shared with colleagues.

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