Trump Cabinet member Elaine Chao says she too has been harassed

Chao (above) told the Women Rule annual summit of female leaders that “the person is still here, and he’s still around”. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Donald Trump's US transportation secretary said on Tuesday (Dec 5) that she has suffered a "me too" moment of sexual harassment, the first member of the president's Cabinet to acknowledge being a victim of such abuse.

"Of course. I think that's the dirty little secret that a lot of women have held for a long time," Elaine Chao told a Washington conference organised by the political news outlet Politico.

She declined to name the perpetrator or explain what happened, telling the Women Rule annual summit of female leaders that "the person is still here, and he's still around".

Chao, 64, is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and is serving her second stint in a presidential Cabinet. She was secretary of labour for eight years during the George W. Bush administration.

Her comments come amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations against scores of people in the fields of entertainment, media and politics.

The issue of sexual harassment, amplified by a #metoo social media campaign in which women have recounted some of their own experiences, has rocked Washington, with at least four sitting members of Congress under ethics clouds.

But Chao appeared keen to downplay what happened in her past, stressing that "the environment was very different" then.

"Things change, times change. And it's not worth my while to go back and revisit those negative moments," she said.

"I will fight for other women... But of your own, you've got to let it go. Because otherwise it's too corrosive, it's too negative, and it does you a double injury because it holds you back."

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