Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) won’t deny the late University of Houston law professor Eugene Smith played a role in getting her where she is today.
But the presidential candidate was also frank about Smith’s alleged sexual harassment while she taught at UH. So frank that she revealed the story of him “lunging at” and “chasing” her around her his office at his funeral, The Washington Post reports in a profile of Warren published Tuesday.
After taking classes at UH, Warren applied for a professorship there in 1978. That’s when Smith took her to dinner with the hiring committee and, unable to cut his steak due to his post-polio syndrome, pushed it to Warren and implied she should do it for him. “Can’t you tell I’m crippled?” retired UH professor John Mixon, who was at the dinner, recalled him saying. “I thought you knew that when you ordered the steak,” Warren replied. The whole table laughed, and Warren was hired.
But with that moment, Warren knew worse things would come. Faculty members treated her like a “second-class citizen,” she said. And Smith, who was essentially “the gatekeeper to her future,” made uncomfortable comments about her appearance, “told dirty jokes, and invited her out for drinks,” the Post writes. Warren “thought she was managing him” until that day in his office in early 1979. She kept quiet about it because “if Gene wanted to sink me, he could,” she said.
That is, she kept quiet until his funeral, where Smith had asked her to speak. And she did, telling Smith’s ex-wife, his three grown sons, and the rest of the “slack-jawed” crowd what happened in Smith’s office, Mixon recalled.