It seems it wouldn’t be an election year without former President Trump stumping for an accused, serial sexual predator.
At a rally on Sunday, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster declared, “We’re going to take sex education out of the schools and put it back in the homes where it belongs!”
This isn’t a particularly remarkable take for any Republican politician hellbent on attacking bodily autonomy. But it’s certainly something to hear this sentiment from a man accused of groping eight different women—including one Nebraska state senator. All of the women in question were notably teenagers or in their early 20s when Herbster allegedly assaulted them.
Unsurprisingly, Trump took to the stage to call Herbster “a good man, a very good man,” adding that the allegations against him were “despicable.”
Republican state Sen. Julie Slama and a former legislative assistant Elizabeth Todsen told the Nebraska Examiner last month that they were both groped by Herbster at the same Republican dinner event in 2019. In both cases, Herbster allegedly groped both women’s behinds. Slama has called the incident “one of the most traumatizing things I’ve ever been through.” Todsen told the paper she was unable to push Herbster away, and that “it was like he knew I couldn’t say anything.”
In addition to Slama and Todsen, six other women—including one who Slama witnessed being groped by Herbster, and who confirmed this to the Examiner—say that Herbster kissed or touched them inappropriately, sometimes when they were reaching for a handshake, just saying hello, or posing for a photo with him. The other women told the newspaper they wished to remain anonymous because they feared Herbster’s power in state politics. One strongly advised that women not work for him. “I’m scared for any young women that he would be dealing with in the future,” she told the Examiner. “Don’t send your daughters to work for this guy.”
Herbster appeared to respond to the allegations against him on Sunday, when he told the crowd, “The Nebraska political establishment has taken control of the state and the Nebraska Republican Party, and they are trying to scare me out of this race. And it’s not going to happen.”
As for his remarks on sex ed, it should be noted that quality, accurate sexual health education can prevent sexual misconduct. It can also protect potential victims when it teaches young people that, say, nonconsensual groping and kissing is wrong.
Unfortunately, Nebraska public schools aren’t required to teach sex education, and if a school chooses to offer sex ed, its curriculum must emphasize abstinence—which has historically placed young people at greater risk of unwanted pregnancy and contracting STIs. Because if Herbster himself had learned a thing or two about consent at his own public high school, maybe he wouldn’t have harmed and traumatized eight young women.
Throughout the rest of the rally, Herbster cycled through all of the Trumpian hits—he pledged to protect “mothers and grandmothers” from “illegals,” and also promised to singlehandedly end critical race theory. “There will be no critical race theory in any school system, including the university,” he said. “Trust me.”
According to the latest polls, Herbster appears to be in a dead heat for the Republican nomination in the governor’s race, polling at 23% just under University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen’s 24%, and above state Sen. Brett Lindstrom’s 20%.