Who is Priscilla Giddings? Idaho GOP Rep who named rape victim calls ethics hearing irrelevant
Idaho GOP Rep Priscilla Giddings refused to answer questions at the controversial hearing over her social media posts where she named a rape victim
A Republican Idaho lawmaker has landed in trouble after sharing the name, photo and other details about a rape victim. Rep Priscilla Giddings has shared details about a Statehouse intern who accused another lawmaker of rape. During a hearing to determine if the social media posts were a violation of ethics rules, Giddings refused to answer questions and dubbed the hearing "irrelevant".
Under Donald Trump, the GOP has become increasingly overt about violating ethics and moral guidelines, with little consequences. On July 31, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was slammed for promoting violence against women, after he joked about hitting Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Flordia Rep Matt Gaetz has faced the biggest pushback after reports emerged of his involvement in sex trafficking. Reportedly, Gaetz shared nude photos of the women he slept with to fellow lawmakers. Those allegations, amongst others, led the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation into Gaetz.
However, accusations of rape and sexual harassment aren't only a Republican issue as numerous Democrats have been embroiled in such scandals as well. According to AP, between 2017 and 2019, 90 state lawmakers were accused of sexual misconduct. Ethics violations have also skyrocketed over the past few decades. Data from GovTrack shows violations went up from 2 in the 1960s to 62 in the 2010s. Giddings has added to the 17 reported so far in the 2020s, after her rather controversial social media posts.
Who is Priscilla Giddings?
The Republican is currently serving Idaho's 7th district in the Idaho House of Representatives. A native of White Bird, Giddings graduated as the student body president and valedictorian of Salmon River High in Riggins. She then joined the United States Air Force Academy, where she graduated with a BS in Biology. During training, she became the only pilot in her class to receive the Air Force's 'Top Gun' award for weapons employment precision.
That led Giddings to a nine-year career with the US Air Force, which included three combat deployments to Afghanistan. By the time she retired, Giddings had nearly 1,000 combat flight hours and nine air medals to her name. Giddings has flown the A-10 "Warthog" fighter aircraft, an MC-12 surveillance aircraft, and also served as a flight commander out of Beale Air Force Base in California. In 2012, Giddings earned an MS in Exercise and Sports Science from the California University of Pennsylvania. Since 2014, she has also served as an Air Force Liason Officer, currently as a State Director for the academy.
In 2015, Giddings first dipped her toes into politics, serving as a state field director for Sen Mike Crapo's campaign. That experience helped her contest the 2016 elections, where she defeated incumbent Shannon McMillan in the Republican primary. In the general election, she managed to defeat her Democratic challenger to be elected state representative first time and has gone on to defend her seat successfully in 2018, and 2020.
However, her tenure hasn't been without controversy. In 2018, Giddings urged her constituents to submit entries for her fake news awards, a term she has repeatedly used in the past. The next year, she introduced a measure to block requirements for a meningitis booster vaccination. In 2021, she tried to make a motion to defund Idaho Public Television, but it failed with a 2-16 vote. She's also supported legislation to ban discrimination against unvaxxed individuals, to turn protected areas into commercial lands, and against increasing salaries for public school teachers.
Rape victim controversy
In April 2021, Giddings shared a far-right news article with her constituents in a newsletter, identifying the alleged victim of rape by Rep Aaron von Ehlinger. The police are still investigating the claims, but Ehlinger resigned earlier this year after the ethics committee recommended he be removed. The sharing of the article led to two dozen lawmakers filing ethics complaints, which the committee is now investigating.
Apart from naming the victim, Giddings also said she wasn’t actually a victim or entitled to privacy under the law. The committee has scheduled a public hearing after finding probable cause that Giddings engaged in "conduct unbecoming a representative, which is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body." Giddings has already expressed little desire to cooperate with the hearing. According to AP, she called the complaints "woke cancel culture" and said the hearings were "politically motivated".
AP reported that when Giddings entered the hearing on August 2, she was met with applause, shouts of support, and a standing ovation by some supporters in the audience — which included some militia members, members of an anti-vaccination group, and others with far-right political organizations. During the hearing, she said sharing the article was protected by the First Amendment, a claim Rep Greg Chaney (Republican) refuted.
Despite the committee being bipartisan, and several other GOP lawmakers accusing Giddings of ethics violations, Giddings has slammed the hearing as an "unfair attack by political opponents". Reportedly, she was not present for most of the hearing and refused to cross-examine any of the witnesses that testified against her. She also refused to call on any witnesses and refused to answer questions.
On August 3, the committee will decide her fate. They can choose to censure her, reprimand her, or even expel Giddings. In the meantime, Giddings appears to have taken her Facebook page down. The hearing will directly influence Giddings' political future, given that she plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2022.