Lawmaker Who Publicized Name of Alleged Rape Victim Says Complaints Politically Motivated

An Idaho lawmaker who publicized the name of an alleged rape victim, a legislative intern, said two ethics complaints made against her by fellow lawmakers are politically motivated, the Associated Press reported.

Republican Representative Priscilla Giddings' assertion came during a public Monday hearing called by the Legislature's ethics committee after it found evidence that Giddings engaged in "conduct unbecoming a representative." In April, Giddings shared links to a far-right news article that included the alleged victim's name, photo and other details on social media and with her colleagues.

The alleged victim accused Republican Aaron von Ehlinger of rape, and he has since resigned from his position as a state lawmaker.

"I will not subject myself to being lambasted," Giddings said during the hearing in regard to politically motivated opposition.

One of the complaints against Giddings was made by Republican Representative Greg Chaney that Giddings responded to in a written statement May 18.

"I did not edit the content or have any control over the content," she wrote. "In effect, I performed the modern version of the old practice of handling someone a page of the newspaper from the newsstand."

The allegation made against von Ehlinger is still being investigated by authorities.

Idaho State Capitol Building
Priscilla Giddings, an Idaho lawmaker who published the name of an alleged rape victim, said complaints made against her are politically motivated. In this photo, general views of the Idaho State Capitol are seen on May 23, in Boise, Idaho. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Giddings was accused of violating ethics rules by publicizing the name of an alleged rape victim in the disparaging social media posts—and then allegedly misleading lawmakers about her actions.

She said during the hearing that she did nothing wrong.

About two dozen lawmakers were a part of issuing the complaints.

The Legislature's ethics committee said Giddings engaged in "conduct unbecoming a representative, which is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body."

Von Ehlinger, resigned earlier this year after the ethics committee recommended he be removed from the Statehouse. Von Ehlinger has denied all wrongdoing.

When Giddings entered the ethics hearing on Monday, she was met with applause, shouts of support and a standing ovation by some supporters in the audience—which included some militia members and others with far-right political activist groups. Some wore shirts with messages of support, including "victims for Priscilla," and "Stand with Priscilla, fighting for our freedom."

In her opening statement, Giddings said the ethics investigation was little more than an unfair attack by political opponents and said she was exercising her constitutionally protected right to free speech by sharing the link that revealed the intern's identity.

Giddings also said she believed the outcome of the hearing had been pre-determined and left the hearing room after making her statement while the panel continued its work, saying she would return only if required by the ethics panel.

Panel members then started to question witnesses, but Giddings did not appear each time that the panel gave her the opportunity to cross-examine them.

Representative Brooke Green, a Democrat and one of the bipartisan group of lawmakers that signed onto an ethics compliant, said that the other two dozen lawmakers who also signed the complaint were approached individually and not told who else was signing to ensure that political motivations didn't play a part.

Green said the complaint was made because the Legislature has an obligation to ensure that sexual assault victims are safe and not revictimized by having their privacy violated.

After the intern's name was publicized, she said the harassment was overwhelming, making an already traumatic experience much worse.

Chaney, a Republican who brought one of the complaints against Giddings, said not all speech is protected under the First Amendment, including speech that wrongly defames someone. Chaney also said that Giddings' actions amounted to retaliation against an employee or coworker who reports harassment or sex assault and therefore did not qualify as constitutionally protected speech.

Giddings didn't return to the hearing room to cross-examine Chaney. But in her May 18 written response to Chaney's complaint, Giddings said that she posted a link to the article identifying the alleged victim and did not write it herself.

Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings Enters Hearing
Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings, left center in black, enters her ethics committee hearing Monday, August 2, to applause and shouts of encouragement from supporters in the audience in Boise, Idaho. She shared a rape victim's name and info on social media and with her colleagues. Rebecca Boone/AP Photo