While the Senate has been poring over the youthful misadventures of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, several House lawmakers, with far less fanfare, have been focusing on a more plausible charge of misconduct involving an ex-colleague, Mel Watt. On September 26, Watt, a former 11-term North Carolina congressman who since January 2014 has headed the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), was grilled at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee concerning allegations about his sexual harassment of a female FHFA employee. “She deserves to be heard and she needs to be heard,” said Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex. Watt denies all wrongdoing, but evidence might not be on his side.
Melvin Luther “Mel” Watt, now 73, a trained lawyer and a native of Charlotte, first was elected to Congress in 1992, a beneficiary of gerrymandering to ensure black representation. During his tenure, he specialized in banking, housing and economic development issues, becoming a ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. Along the way, he displayed a penchant for racially inflammatory comments. In 2005, for example, during a hearing held by the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act, he said, “There would be a substantial majority of white voters who would say that under no circumstances would they vote for an African-American candidate.” Such voters, he emphasized, “need to be factored out of the equation” because “I’ve got no use for them.”