North Carolina Rep. Duane Hall forcibly pulled a woman into his lap and kissed her against her will at Equality N.C.’s 2016 gala, according to two people, including the alleged victim, who spoke to Policy Watch Thursday.
Policy Watch reported multiple accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual overtures against the three-term Democratic legislator in a Wednesday story, prompting an avalanche of calls for Hall’s resignation by top Democrats, including Gov. Roy Cooper, state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin and N.C. House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson.
But the stories related Thursday include additional details on one alleged incident at the LGBTQ rights group’s October 2016 event in downtown Raleigh.
“He pulled me down onto his lap,” a woman said of Hall. “My buddy tried to pick me off his lap, but he wouldn’t let me go. Then he kissed me and took a photo on his phone. I got really pissed and said ‘delete that photo.’”
The alleged victim reached out to Policy Watch after Wednesday’s report. Policy Watch knows the identity of the woman, who worked for multiple Democratic candidates, but does not release the names of victims in such cases without their consent. The woman also asked not to be identified because she feared it would impact her career, something other women who spoke to Policy Watch expressed.
“To me, it’s not embarrassing what happened,” she said. “I did nothing wrong, but it’s important for people to know this happened.”
Her friend, Jonah Hermann, a progressive advocate, said he witnessed that moment near the conclusion of the gala at the downtown Raleigh Marriott.
Hall “was sitting in a chair in the lobby,” said Hermann. “He grabbed (the woman) and forcibly kissed her while taking a photo.”
“When he pulled her into his lap, his arm was wrapped around her waist and the other was on his phone, taking a photo,” added Hermann.
When Hall refused to delete the photo, the woman said another attendee who appeared to know Hall stepped in and ordered Hall to delete the photo. The woman said she couldn’t recall the name of that person. Hermann said it was the culmination of “several advances, verbally and physically” that Hall made throughout the night toward the woman.
Both the woman and Hermann described Hall’s behavior as persistent and unwanted. The woman said she was seeking to avoid the Raleigh lawmaker, a local real estate attorney, but he talked repeatedly about how attractive she was to both her and Hermann.
“Afterward, he tried to follow us out of the hotel,” she said. “This is like 11 o’clock at night. We were trying to leave and my friend had to be like, ‘back off man.’ I literally had to get shuffled out of the hotel by the people we were with because he wouldn’t leave me alone.”
“I’m glad people are calling for (Hall’s) resignation,” she added. “I think it should happen today, immediately.”
Rep. Hall did not respond to interview requests Thursday, but denied any wrongdoing in Wednesday’s story.
The woman says she laughed during Hall’s initial advances that evening, but she and Hermann became increasingly uncomfortable with the lawmaker’s persistence and told him so. She said the dynamics were difficult for her, a 23-year-old campaign staffer dealing with Hall, a then-49-year-old rising star in the Democratic Party.
“How am I supposed to tell someone of his power to leave me alone?” she said. “It puts women in politics in such difficult situations.”
The woman said the incident prompted her to get out of state politics.
“I didn’t want to deal with men like that anymore,” she said. “We can’t say Republicans did this and that when people of our own party are acting this way. At what point do you say enough is enough?”
Hermann agreed. “With the outpouring of allegations coming out against folks all over the country, although (Hall) might stand by the right policies and has worked pretty hard in the legislature and has aspirations for higher office, as Democrats we have to hold our own people accountable.”
Wednesday’s Policy Watch report included claims that Hall sexually harassed a legislative aide, a former Democratic campaign worker and kissed a party official without their consent at a Democratic party function in Raleigh.
Hall reportedly mulled a run for the U.S. Senate in 2015 and was also considering a campaign for lieutenant governor in 2020.
A spokesman for the statewide party said Democratic leaders had no additional comment on the new details Thursday. Many of the party’s most influential leaders condemned Hall after Policy Watch’s report broke Wednesday afternoon.
For those who wish to contact Policy Watch with more information, please contact reporter Billy Ball at 919-861-1460 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Disclosure: Hall has donated $500 to the N.C. Justice Center, Policy Watch’s parent nonprofit, since 2016].