'Huggy Bear' the Lawmaker Told to Stop His Embraces

But California inquiry finds that Bob Hertzberg's embraces weren't sexual in nature
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2018 5:57 AM CST
In this 2015 file photo, California State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, center, gives Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, a hug as Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, looks on.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
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(Newser) – A California state senator has been told to stop hugging people after an investigation concluded that his trademark embraces made multiple female colleagues uncomfortable. However, the investigation released Thursday found Sen. Bob Hertzberg's frequent hugs are not intended to be sexual and more often than not are not unwelcome, per the AP. Hertzberg, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, has earned nicknames such as "Hugsberg" and "Huggy Bear" for greeting men and women alike with giant hugs. The Senate Rules Committee formally reprimanded him on Tuesday and told him not to hug people anymore, but he will not otherwise face discipline.

Hertzberg released a letter apologizing to anyone who felt his frequent embraces were unwelcome. The 63-year-old said he has greeted people with hugs all his life and they were intended as "a gesture of warmth and kindness and a reflection of my exuberance." The investigation into Hertzberg covered four complaints dating back to 2010, involving three female lawmakers and a male sergeant at arms. It found he hugged two current and one former lawmaker in ways that made them uncomfortable and made the sergeant uncomfortable by "dancing briefly with his backside" against him. "I understand that I cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior," Hertzberg wrote. "It is my responsibility to be mindful of this."

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