Senator from San Diego County reprimanded for threatening to ‘bitch slap’ a lobbyist

State Sen. Joel Anderson was at least a little tipsy and rubbing a lobbyist’s shoulders during a political fundraiser at a steakhouse near the Capitol last month when he leaned in close and told her he wanted to “bitch slap” her.

That’s the finding of the latest sexual harassment investigation released by the California Legislature on Tuesday as the fallout of the #MeToo movement continues to ripple through the state Capitol. The records include a letter reprimanding Anderson, a Republican from Alpine,  and calling his behavior “completely unacceptable.” The letter from Senate leader Toni Atkins, a Democrat, instructs him to “interact in a professional manner going forward” and says he will face more severe discipline if he doesn’t.

Atkins’ Republican counterpart applauded the move, saying all senators need to adhere to standards of conduct.

“The behavior exhibited in this incident will no longer be tolerated.  The decision to issue a reprimand in this case is warranted and appropriate,” Senate Republican leader Pat Bates said in a statement.

Anderson, who is termed out of the Senate this year and is running for a seat on the Board of Equalization, told investigators that he did not use the term “bitch slap” in a threatening way. Instead, he argues, he used the term to describe something he found shocking. He said it was a poor choice of words and he should have instead said “blow your mind.”

Investigators disagreed, saying the lobbyist and four witnesses they interviewed heard Anderson say it as a threat, something to the effect of “I ought to bitch slap you.”

“Although we do not reach a conclusion on the specific phrasing, we conclude the term was not used in the context described by Senator Anderson,” the investigation says.

The list below shows all the harassment cases that have been substantiated by the California Legislature since it began releasing such records in February. We are continually updating this spreadsheet; scroll to the right for a link to the source documents.

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