A state Assembly leader has apologized for what he called “stupid comments while under the influence of alcohol” that he made to three female legislators after a Republican caucus event in Wisconsin Dells.
Assistant Republican Majority Leader Rob Brooks said in a statement Wednesday that he takes responsibility for the comments made at an event in July and that he has apologized. The incident was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Citing sources it did not name, the Journal Sentinel said Brooks told Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek, that he was buying drinks for everyone except her because she is Hispanic. She is the only Republican Hispanic member of the state Assembly.
The newspaper said Brooks made sexual comments to Reps. Cindi Duchow, R-Delafield, and Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton. The incident happened at a restaurant, the newspaper reported.
The three lawmakers, in a joint statement released by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s office, called the comments “inappropriate” and “offensive” but did not relay exactly what Brooks said. They said they notified Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller who then discussed it with Brooks. He then apologized, the lawmakers said.
“We are pleased with the appropriate way in which this case was handled and have already put it behind us,” the three female legislators said.
The statement from Vos’s office said another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mark Born, became aware of the situation that night and spoke directly to Brooks “about his offensive comments, which then ceased.”
“I regret that I made some stupid comments while under the influence of alcohol after our caucus in the Dells,” Brooks said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for my behavior and have apologized for my actions. I am ready to move on from this incident and fully support and will adhere to the Assembly policies to maintain a safe workplace for legislators and staff.”
Brooks, of Saukville, was first elected to the Assembly in 2014. He was elected as assistant majority leader by his Republican colleagues in 2017. Rodriguez is caucus secretary, another leadership position, and Loudenbeck is a member of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee.
The Democrat challenging Brooks for re-election, Chris Rahlf of Cedarburg, denounced his actions.
“Sober or drunk, it’s not OK to make these kind of remarks,” she said. “I’m glad that the women involved are satisfied that the correct course of action was taken. We must keep striving for a society where everyone is respected all the time.”
The Wisconsin Legislature drew criticism in the fall of 2017 over its policy not to release complaints about sexual harassment or misconduct by legislators or their staffers. Clerks of the Senate and Assembly defended the policy, saying that releasing the records would have a chilling effect on reporting incidents.