“I understand that I cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior. It is my responsibility to be mindful of this.”
So wrote California state senator Bob “Huggy Bear” Hertzberg after being formally reprimanded by the Senate Rules Committee for his frequent hugs.
Hertzberg, known for greeting both men and women with a hug, was subject to a legislative investigation for his behavior. While it found that he made some people feel uncomfortable, the hugs were not found to be sexual in nature.
“Many of the witnesses spoke in support of Hertzberg and described his hugs in positive terms such as friendly, warm, and welcoming,” noted the report. The Rules Committee advised him that he was on notice that his behavior was “unwelcome,” but he will not otherwise face any discipline.
In response, Hertzberg explained that his hugs were intended as “a gesture of warmth and kindness and a reflection of [his] exuberance,” but apologized for the behavior.
Hertzberg is the third California politician to have been investigated in recent months following the publication of an open letter in October that described “pervasive sexual misconduct” in California’s capital. Several other investigations are ongoing.