Republican Sen. Richard Burr has been accused by a Democratic opponent of voting against protecting rape victims working as contractors in Iraq, a charge that he denies.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall noted that Burr was one of 30 Republican senators who voted last week against an amendment that grew out of a publicized case of a Halliburton employee who was gang-raped by co-workers.
"Senator Burr has obviously been in Washington too long," said Marshall, who is one of two Democrats who say they will challenge Burr's 2010 bid for a second term. She is also a founder of a rape crisis center. "This is a clear-cut case of right versus wrong, and Richard Burr got it wrong."
Burr has also drawn criticism from TV comedian/commentator Jon Stewart.
But a Burr spokesman said the case was far more complicated, and the amendment offered by Democratic Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would not have accomplished what its supporters advertised.
"Senator Burr believes violence against women is despicable and intolerable, and those who have committed or abetted such heinous crimes should be subjected to the full weight of the law," said David Ward, Burr's chief spokesman. "Unfortunately, the Franken amendment would not do anything to protect women from violence or to punish criminals. If it had, Senator Burr would certainly have voted for the amendment."
The legislation grew out of an incident involving Jamie Leigh Jones, a Houston woman who has testified before Congress that she was gang-raped by seven fellow firefighters at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad in 2005. She said 38 women have come forward through her foundation to report their own stories of sexual harassment or rape while serving in Iraq, Kuwait and other countries.
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