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Story highlights

Kaptur said female staffers and reporters also wore outfits that were too revealing

Those in the room were 'totally in shock' and their 'mouths were agape'

(CNN) —  

At a closed-door meeting of House Democrats to discuss reforming how Congress handles sexual harassment allegations, one senior congresswoman stunned lawmakers when she suggested female lawmakers were inviting unwanted advances because of the way they dressed.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur stood up and told her colleagues Wednesday that “too many members dress inappropriately” and it’s “an invitation” to be harassed, according to three Democratic sources familiar with the discussion.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
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Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)

Kaptur said female staffers and reporters were also guilty of wearing outfits that she believed were too revealing.

Gillibrand on Trump’s tweet: It was a ‘sexist smear’

Those in the room were “totally in shock” and their “mouths were agape” at the statement from Kaptur, according to these sources.

Politico first reported Kaptur’s comments Wednesday.

Kaptur told CNN in a written statement that she was not suggesting that victims were responsible.

“When I was first elected to Congress my office and I became a refuge for female staffers who had been mistreated by their bosses. Some of them in tears many days. It is something I carry with me to this day and something I brought up during our Caucus meeting. Under no circumstances is it the victim’s fault if they are harassed in any way. I shared the stories from my time here in the context of the ‘Me Too’ legislation and how we can elevate the decorum and the dress code to protect women from what is a pervasive problem here and in society at large.”

Kaptur, 71, had signaled that she knew her statement would cause some blowback, prefacing it by saying, “I might get booed down for saying this.” She has served in the House since 1983 and is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

02:34 - Source: CNN
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One Democratic staffer who attended the meeting said the comment came toward the end of the gathering and that people glanced around and said to each other, “Did she really just say that?”