WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, said at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday night that she would consider actions the President-elect described on a 2005 hot mic tape released during the 2016 campaign to be sexual assault.
Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate committee considering DeVos’ nomination, asked the Michigan Republican whether she would consider the actions described on the tape — “kissing and touching women and girls without their consent,” she said paraphrasing Trump — to be sexual assault.
“Yes,” DeVos answered simply.
The “Access Hollywood” tape rocked the race and led to days’ worth of news coverage about Trump’s comments.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said on the tape, after describing how he would kiss and grope women without their consent.
Trump responded to the video by apologizing “if anyone was offended.”
“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” he said.
DeVos, should she be confirmed, would oversee the enforcement of campus sexual assault rules.
During the hearing, she told Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, that she could not commit to continuing the Obama administration’s guidance that schools that don’t investigate campus sexual assault would be violating Title IX and could lose federal funding.
On another subject, DeVos said it should be up to states whether guns are allowed in schools, citing grizzly bear protection as part of her answer.
She also said she would support Trump if he moved to ban gun-free school zones, a position he advocated on the campaign trail.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who represents Sandy Hook, the site of the 2012 school shooting, asked DeVos if she believes guns have “any place in and around schools.”
“I think that is best left to locales and states to decide,” she said.
After Murphy pushed DeVos about why she can’t say definitively whether they belong, DeVos brought up a story Sen. Mike Enzi told earlier about a school in Wyoming that has fences around it to protect against grizzly bears.
“I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he is talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she said.
The comment drew some laughs in the room.
As for Trump’s campaign pledge to end gun-free school zones, DeVos said she would support the president-elect on the issue.
“If the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence,” she said.
Murphy, a gun control advocate, invited DeVos to Connecticut.