Donald Trump's cabinet education nominee Betsy DeVos says President-elect's behaviour is sexual assault

Asked whether if Mr Trump’s behaviour took place in a school she would would consider it a sexual assault, Ms DeVos immediately responded: 'Yes'

May Bulman
Wednesday 18 January 2017 10:54 GMT
Donald Trump's own education nominee says President-elect's behaviour is sexual assault

Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary has said the President-elect is guilty of actions that constitute sexual assault.

Betsy DeVos, a Republican donor, said she considered conduct by the President-elect to constitute sexual assault, in reference to the unwanted kissing and touching he bragged about on a 2005 tape that surfaced last October.

Speaking at her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Ms DeVos also vowed she would be looking “very closely” into how such behaviour could be regulated in schools and campuses if she lands the role.

During the hearing, the Republican was asked by a Democratic senator whether if Mr Trump’s behaviour, “kissing and touching women and girls without their consent”, happened in a school, she would would consider it a sexual assault.

The Republican immediately replied: ”Yes“.

When then asked whether she planned to rein in the department's work to protect students from campus sexual assault, Ms DeVos retorted that she would "be looking very closely at how this has been regulated and handled and with great sensitivity to those who are victims."

In a 2005 recording that surfaced a month before the presidential election, Mr Trump bragged that he could do anything he wanted to women — including grabbing and kissing them without consent.

Donald Trump caught on tape talking about sexually assaulting women: "Grab 'em by the pussy"

The billionaire later dismissed his comments as “locker room talk”.

Ms DeVos's comments came as a woman who previously accused Mr Trump of aggressive, unwanted sexual advances filed a defamation lawsuit against him.

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice”, announced the suit on Tuesday, alleging the President-elect defamed her in tweets and at rallies when he said her claims were fabricated, after she accused him in November of accosting her in New York City and at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007.

Former Apprentice star files defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump

Ms Zervos is one among at least a dozen women who have accused the President-elect of sexual assault — all allegations he has strongly denied. Only one person previously filed a lawsuit against him, but dropped the case shortly after she failed to reveal her identity at a press conference.

During the senator hearing, Ms DeVos also said she would not seek to dismantle public schools amid questions by Democrats about her qualifications, political donations and long-time work advocating for charter schools and school choice.

When quizzed by Senator Bernie Sanders on whether she would have gotten the job had it not been for her family's political contributions, Ms DeVos said: “As a matter of fact I do think that there would be that possibility.

"I have worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years."

Amid concerns that Ms DeVos' conservative religious views might make her a poor advocate for the rights of the LGBT community and other minorities, the Republican stressed that no students should face discrimination.

LGBT groups have protested the President-elect's choice of Ms DeVos, saying she has funded conservative religious groups that promote what they consider to be traditional family values.

As education secretary, Ms DeVos would lead the agency responsible for policies affecting public schools, and be in charge of executing Mr Trump's campaign promise to use $20 billion in federal funds to create school choice programmes.

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