The Boston Globe is reporting that four men are accusing the husband of Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg of sexual misconduct.
The newspaper said four men with ties to the State House allege that Bryon Hefner sexually assaulted and harassed them in recent years. Three said Hefner grabbed their genitals and one said Hefner kissed him against his will. The Globe said it has found no evidence that Rosenberg knew about any of the incidents.
The men - who were not identified by the Globe - said they were hesitant to report the assaults because of Rosenberg's influence on Beacon Hill.
Rosenberg, a Democrat from Amherst, has been Senate president since 2015 and has served in the Legislature for 30 years.
In statements issued Thursday, both Hefner and Rosenberg said they were shocked by the allegations.
Hefner said no one has complained to him or any other government authority about the allegations. He said it is "incredibly difficult" to respond to allegations by unnamed individuals.
"This is the first I have heard about these claims," Rosenberg said. "Even though, based on what little I have been told, these allegations do not involve members or employees of the Senate and did not occur in the State House, I take them seriously. To the best of my recollection I was not approached by anyone with complaints during or after the alleged incidents made in this article or I would have tried to intervene."
Rosenberg later issued another statement supporting a call for an independent investigation into the allegations "regarding the activities of my husband and their effects on Senate business," and said he is recusing himself from all matters relating to the allegations and investigation. His recusal charges Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler with serving as the majority party lead in the investigation, alongside Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Senate Counsel.
"Frankly I'm appalled by the allegations," Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said. "I really felt for the people when I read the story of who came forward."
Hefner, 30, and Rosenberg, 68, have been a couple since 2008 and were married in 2016.
Their relationship became news back in 2014 after Hefner allegedly mocked outgoing Senate President Therese Murray on Twitter and boasted about his influence in the Legislature. That prompted Rosenberg to reassure his colleagues that he planned to enforce a "firewall" between his personal and professional lives.
"Certainly based on the allegations there's a question about that firewall," Baker said.
In a statement, Tarr called the claims "serious and disturbing" and said they should be investigated.
"Without a doubt, there must be a full and fair process by which the facts should be evaluated, and any wrongdoing in this case should be dealt with swiftly and properly addressed," he said. "No one should manipulate, harm, or abuse anyone else and when they do, there must be appropriate consequences."
Thursday's Globe report comes just a month after House Speaker Robert DeLeo pledged a review of sexual harassment policies following a previous Globe story citing 12 women who said they had been sexually harassed at the Massachusetts State House.
The Globe cited anonymous women who recounted how unnamed male lawmakers pressed up against them, touched, massaged or tried to kiss them, and in some cases demanded sex. The women were aides, lobbyists and legislators who had worked in and around the State House dating back to the early 2000s.
Similar behavior has been called out in other states — including Rhode Island — in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.