EDITORIAL: Murray should openly respond to allegations

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In recent months, women across the country have stepped forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment, breaking years of silence. Their stories have led many high-profile public figures to step down from their jobs or be forced out.

Wyoming’s second highest-ranking official, Secretary of State Ed Murray, was accused of sexual misconduct by two women.

If you’ve missed the news, here’s a recap:

In December, Tatiana Maxwell of Boulder, Colorado, shared her story on social media with the hashtag #MeToo. She alleges that in the early 1980s, Murray sexually assaulted her at the Cheyenne law office where they worked together. Murray was quick to deny the allegations, calling Maxwell’s claim “unequivocally false.”

“There is no basis to this falsehood whatsoever and it is deeply hurtful to me and to my family, as well as to everyone I serve,” Murray said in a statement.

Another woman stepped forward with allegations last week. Theresa Sullivan Twiford said that on New Year’s Eve 1988, Murray forcibly kissed her after she babysat his children. At the time, she was 18 years old and her father, Mike Sullivan, was serving as Wyoming’s Democratic governor.

In a statement, Murray said he did not remember that night.

“To be certain, I have absolutely no recollection of this incident whatsoever and, as such, will not engage in any conjecture about it in the media,” Murray wrote.

While Murray has not admitted to either incident, the allegations were enough to dash his hopes of seeking re-election or entering the governor’s race, where he was seen as a potential front-runner.

“It’s a great privilege to serve as the Secretary of State of Wyoming and I will continue to work diligently throughout the remainder of my term,” Murray said in his statement. “However, I’ve decided that I will not seek reelection or run for higher office in 2018.”

His prepared statements represent his only public comments on the two accusations.

Murray apparently believes there’s enough merit to these allegations to end his pursuit of elected office, but that he does not have to substantially address them — all while continuing to serve as our state’s second highest-ranking official for the next 11 months.

We believe that’s unacceptable.

Secretary Murray, like anyone else, is innocent until proven guilty; as a private citizen, he would have no obligation to speak about the accusations against him.

But as a publicly elected official, he should openly speak to his constituents about the claims, rather than hiding behind prepared statements. The people of Wyoming deserve better.

If Maxwell and Sullivan Twiford’s stories are true, they deserve better, too — starting with a public apology.

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