Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren once eulogized a former colleague by accusing him of sexual harassment in front of his ex-wife and children, according to a profile of the presidential candidate in the Washington Post.
Warren, who got her first full-time teaching job at the University of Houston, returned to campus 15 years later to deliver a eulogy for UH law professor Eugene Smith. Smith was a “champion” of Warren, according to WaPo, and specifically requested she speak at his funeral after he passed away from polio complications.
However, during her eulogy, Warren reportedly “stunned” funeral attendees when she told what was meant to be a lighthearted story about Smith chasing her around his office.
“With a smile on her face and humor in her voice, Warren described how Smith had invited her to his office one day just a few months after she had been hired. He shut the door and lunged for her, she said, and as she protested, he chased her around his desk before she was able to escape out the door.”
John Mixon, a former UH law professor, described the crowd as “slack-jawed” at the eulogy, and added that the story didn’t even seem plausible given Smith’s limited mobility due to the polio.
“To have this image of him chasing her around the desk, it was just comical, and she told the story without rancor,” Mixon said.
Smith’s ex-wife and three children were present at the funeral.
In 2017, Warren told the story again, but this time describing it as a #MeToo moment during an interview with NBC News and three other female senators. (RELATED: Elizabeth Warren Admits She Is Not A Person Of Color)
“Yes, I have a #MeToo story too,” Warren said. “I was a baby law professor and so excited to have my first real teaching job.”
She continued, “This senior faculty member who, you know, would tell dirty jokes and make comments about my appearance, and one day he asked me if one day I would stop by his office.”
“He slammed the door and lunged for me. It was like a bad cartoon. He’s chasing me around the desk trying to get his hands on me. And I kept saying, ‘you don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do this, I have little children at home, please don’t do this,'” Warren recalled. “And at the same time what was flickering through my brain was, ‘if he gets hold of me, I’m going to punch him right in the face.'”
Warren said eventually she was able to escape from the situation and went back to her office and “shook.” She also claimed, however, that she “never said a word” about the incident to anyone besides her best friend.
The Boston Globe noted in an article shortly after the NBC News interview that it was not the first time Warren had spoken about the incident, and questioned why the senator has treated the incident so lightly during her eulogy of Smith.
“It was 20 years later, and he didn’t have power over me anymore,” Warren told the Globe about the eulogy, adding, “I made it clear that I was just fine.”
Warren has contradicted herself when telling stories before, most notably when she claimed she was pushed out of her first teaching job because she was “visibly pregnant.” In a 2007 interview, Warren provided a different explanation for why she could not keep her job, suggesting she didn’t have the proper credentials to teach full-time.