California state Senate leaders are warning one member against behavior some have described as unwelcome physical touching.
According to the New York Daily News, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzerg had been warned against unsolicited hugs prior to a recent report instructing him to avoid initiating any hugging whatsoever.
The lawmaker had reportedly earned nicknames including “Huggy Bear” and “Hugsberg” as a result of his penchant for embracing others.
In the written advisory aimed at addressing his behavior, the Senate Rules Committee determined that the issue cannot be solved by merely “asking someone if a hug is unwelcome or welcome because a person may not feel comfortable telling you it is unwelcome.”
The leadership group cited several examples of alleged unwanted conduct, including multiple hugs and an incident in which he “danced briefly with his backside against a male Sergeant at Arms in a manner that was unwanted and made the Sergeant uncomfortable.”
As CBS News reported, none of his accusers were named in the Senate report, but Republican state Assemblywoman Linda Halderman has spoken out against what she said was a pattern of prolonged unwanted hugging and other inappropriate conduct between 2010 and 2012.
Hertzberg indirectly used the report to downplay his own behavior, noting that it determined his “motivation for hugging is not sexual in nature.”
He continued, however, by apologizing to anyone offended by what he called “a gesture of warmth and kindness and a reflection of my exuberance.”
The senator’s statement went on to acknowledge he could not determine how others interpret his behavior.
“It is my responsibility to be mindful of this,” he said.
[Lois Wolk, Bob Hertzberg and Bob Wieckowski/Associated Press]