GOP Lawmaker Skewered for Inserting Colleagues’ Names Into Book’s Rape Scene

Nebraska Senate
Nebraska Senate

A GOP Nebraska lawmaker has been skewered by those in his own party after he substituted two rival colleagues’ names into a rape scene of a book he read aloud in front of the Nebraska Senate on Monday night.

The disgusting incident came as senators debated a bill related to book bans. That’s when Sen. Steve Halloran, a Republican, used his time on the floor to read a graphic passage from Lucky, by Alice Sebold, which includes a graphic description of a rape Sebold survived in college.

Halloran didn’t just read the book verbatim, however. Instead, he replaced the perpetrator’s name with “Sen. Cavanaugh” during the rape sequence, a clear reference to the Democratic Senators Machaela and John Cavanaugh, who are siblings.

“He kicked me and I crawled into a ball. I want a blow job, Senator Cavanaugh,” said Halloran, partially reciting dialogue from the book. “I’ve never done it before. I said, I’m a virgin. Put it in your mouth. I kneel before him, Senator Cavanaugh.”

Machaela Cavanaugh skewered Halloran on the Senate floor for the tasteless stunt, fighting back tears as she exclaimed she didn’t know he was “capable of such cruelty.”

She said she wanted to have “respectful debate” about the bill, which was introduced by Joni Albrecht, a Republican, seeking to prevent teachers and librarians from sharing “obscene” material with students even if its for educational purposes.

“I have done nothing but try to have a respectful debate with Senator Albrecht about her bill that impacts my children,” said Machaela Cavanaugh. “That was so out of line and unnecessary, and disgusting to say my name over and over again like that.”

Machaela Cavanaugh added that there are women in the legislature who experienced sexual violence themselves, suggesting they wouldn’t take kindly to Halloran using a rape depiction as part of a political stunt.

Within hours, fellow state senators Megan Hunt, an Independent, and Julie Slama, a Republican, called for Halloran to resign from public office.

“Honestly, I think Halloran should resign,” Hunt posted to X. “How dare he even form his mouth to say the words, ‘Give me a blow job Senator Cavanaugh.’ He said that because he wanted to say it. It was beyond the pale. Pure aggression to read a rape scene out loud and put it like that. Broken brain.”

Others within Nebraska politics have called for Halloran’s resignation, including Precious McKesson, the head of the state’s Democratic Party.

“This is unacceptable and Halloran needs to resign ASAP,” she said. “No woman should ever endure this from anyone. Resign now.”

Albecht, who introduced the bill being debated, said she was taken aback by the stunt herself. She apologized to Machaela Cavanaugh on the floor and said she was “mortified,” but didn’t call on Halloran to resign or apologize himself.

Halloran issued a half apology on Tuesday morning. He defended his decision to read the passage on the Senate floor, but conceded it was a “mistake” to incorporate the Cavanaugh family into the graphic passage.

“I was not trivializing rape,” he insisted. “I was reading from a book that’s required reading for some students. Should I have interjected the senators’ names? No. Sometimes we do things on the floor in the midst of making a statement that we shouldn’t have done.”

‘60 Minutes’ Confronts Moms for Liberty Co-Founders on Book Bans

Book bans have swept across the U.S. in recent years, with many state legislatures—under increased pressure by Moms for Liberty—pushing to have books of a sexual nature or about LGBTQ people be pulled from library shelves.

Lucky was one of the most banned books in the country during the 2021-22 school year. As Halloran described, the book talks about surviving a rape in detail—something the Nebraska GOP has argued is not appropriate for children.

John Cavanaugh countered that the book, while graphic, should remain in schools because it depicts the reality of life. He said the same is true of others like it.

“There are graphic scenes in books. There are graphic things that happen to people in life, and stories have context, and they give meaning to the people who read them, who feel alone,” John Cavanaugh said. “The whole point is that we cannot make a determination writ large about what has value and to whom it has value.”

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