Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York accused some of her fellow Democratic candidates for president of not supporting women who work outside the home on Thursday, her most pointed attempt yet to frame her struggling candidacy as the best option for women voters.
“We have Democratic candidates running for president right now who do not believe necessarily that it’s a good idea that women work outside the home,” she said emphatically before a women’s labor event in Iowa City, Iowa. “No joke.”
Ms. Gillibrand did not name names, and her campaign would not say whom she was referring to.
The stark accusation came ahead of next week’s second round of Democratic debates in Detroit and at a crucial juncture for Ms. Gillibrand, who has found little traction in the polls and is at risk of falling short of the party’s thresholds to qualify for the fall debates.
“Kirsten believes we need to have a broader and more intentional conversation about valuing women in this country and even this primary, and she intends to do so in the coming days,” said Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for Ms. Gillibrand. “Stay tuned.”
Ms. Gillibrand also accused some of her rivals of believing the #MeToo movement that has empowered victims of sexual violence had “gone too far.” She said some Democrats “turn a blind eye to sexual assault” and questioned whether women are being valued sufficiently in the Democratic Party, even as a record-setting number run for president.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m really sick of it. I’m so freaking sick of it. I can’t tell you how angry I am that Democrats, Democrats turn a blind eye to sexual assault, sexual harassment and any reforms that value women in the workplace,” Ms. Gillibrand told the audience.
Her remarks came days after The New Yorker reported that seven of the Democratic senators who had called for Al Franken to resign from the Senate in December 2017 now regret that decision.
Ms. Gillibrand was the first Democratic senator to call for Mr. Franken to step down following eight accusations of sexual misconduct. His allies have long blamed her for his quick downfall, even though dozens of other Democratic senators called for Mr. Franken’s resignation as well, some within minutes of Ms. Gillibrand.
“We have presidential candidates running right now who think the Me Too movement has gone too far. Well, what do you mean by that? Do you mean any woman who has come forward to say she has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted shouldn’t be complaining?” Ms. Gillibrand said.
“What are you saying? That any man, especially a powerful man, a well-liked man should be able to grope you?” she said. “Is that what you believe? We have members, we have people who are running for president of the United States as Democrats who believe the standards for the Democratic Party are too high. Really? How would you feel if your child was groped, anywhere on their body? How would you feel if somebody that you know and love is forcibly kissed without their consent? I don’t think it would be O.K. then.”
Ms. Gillibrand’s comments were first reported by Iowa Starting Line, a politics website.