As Rachel reports, it looks like the vote taken by 30 Republicans to protect contractors rather than rape victims is not playing very well for them in
October 22, 2009

As Rachel reports, it looks like the vote taken by 30 Republicans to protect contractors rather than rape victims is not playing very well for them in their local papers.

Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney joined Rachel to talk about what happened to her and weigh in on the Republican response that the amendment was just a way to take a "political shot" at Halliburton.

MADDOW: One specific vote on one specific part of the giant legislation that funds the Defense Department is turning into a real political problem for 30 Republican senators.

In Idaho, the "Lewiston Morning Tribune" called out its two senators in an editorial titled, "Senators Crapo and Risch Cast an Inexplicable Vote."

In Mississippi, "The Clarion Ledger" editorialized, quote, "Senators Cochran and Wicker voted to protect corporations, not victims, and they should own up to that."

An opinion piece in the "Osawatomie Graphic" was titled simply, "Kansas Senators are Disappointing." In Tennessee, a "Crossville Chronicle" writers asked, "Whose Side are Our Senators On?"

The "Athens Banner Herald" in Georgia headlined a letter quote, "Georgia Senators Embarrass State." And in Louisiana, a "Shreveport Times" writer asks, quote, "What exactly is Sen. David Vitter problem with women."

When Republicans are getting called out in Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia, something big is going on politically. This all began when 30 Senate Republicans voted against an amendment by Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

The amendment said that the government shouldn't give defense contracts to companies if those companies prevent their employees who have been raped or discriminated against from suing in court.

Franken's amendment passed, but 30 male Republican senators voted no on it. Now, much of the outraged response to that vote across the country is due to the fact that this legislation was prompted by a horrible real-life case, the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.

She was a 20-year-old female contractor at Halliburton subsidiary, KBR when she says she was drugged and gang raped by her co-workers and locked in a shipping container. Because of her employment contract, Ms. Jones was not allowed to sue. She still hasn't had her day in court.

I want you to know that we called every single one of the 30 Republican senators who voted no on this. Not one of them agreed to come on the show to talk about why they voted the way they did. Senators, I want you to know, the invitation remains open.

Joining us now is Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly. Thanks very much to both of you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.



MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, four years ago, you were drugged and raped for working as a contractor in Iraq that led to, not only this legislation, but to the outrage over the people who voted against this legislation. Can you tell us briefly what happened?

J. JONES: OK. Well, I went to Iraq to serve my country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four days upon my arrival there, I was brutally and sexually assaulted and drugged.

And when I reported my assault to Halliburton KBR, they essentially imprisoned me in a container. And I was held captive by armed guard, by guards that were called gurkhas. And they are guards that have machine guns and everything else and they're hired by KBR.

And after pleading with one of the guards, he did let me contact my father, who contacted Congressman Ted Poe. And Congressman Poe dispatched a rescue mission to get me out of there.

MADDOW: Now, I understand you were not allowed to sue, to see that anybody was held responsible for what happened to you.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: Is that because of the contract that you signed when you signed up with Halliburton?

J. JONES: Yes, exactly.

MADDOW: How would you describe Halliburton's role overall in responding to what happened to you? We know how you just described what happened immediately after the incident happened. But what's happened since?

J. JONES: Do you want to comment on that?

KELLY: Well, if you're asking what happened from a legal standpoint, Halliburton has made every effort to force Jamie into secret binding arbitration. If you're asking from a sense of how they have helped Jamie, obviously, she'd be in a better situation to answer that question than I would, but I would say not very much.

J. JONES: Yes. They have tried to completely keep this under arbitration because then, it would be quiet and secret and binding. Then I would not be able to be sitting here in front of you today to tell my story, which I think is very crucial for other wives, mothers and daughters that want to go and serve their country by working for a contractor.

So, you know, essentially, I think that corporations should never be above going in front of a trial by jury. And so this Franken amendment would prevent that from happening.

MADDOW: The amendment, obviously, passed and I think that we're all watching to see what happens whether it ultimately becomes law.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: The Defense Department has expressed concerns about whether or not it would be enforceable, although they say that they agree with the overall intent of it. We don't know what's going to happen next.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: But I have to ask your reaction to those 30 no votes. Three out of four Republican senators voted against this amendment. How did you feel about that?

J. JONES: Well, I think that is really unfortunate. I wouldn't - I cannot even understand the reasoning as to why anyone would vote against it. I am very happy about the votes that we did get for it.

I'm thrilled it's gotten as far as it has gotten. Hopefully, the 30 senators will have a change of heart during a conference because maybe if they tried to understand how they would feel if their daughter or wife or somebody was in my position, how they would feel if it was to go in front of an arbitrator. Hopefully, they'll change their position on it, so -

MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, either you or Todd - I was struck by the argument from Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He's one of the people who voted against it and he argued against it.

J. JONES: Yes.

MADDOW: And he said this is just a political shot at Halliburton. This is just Democrats taking a shot at a politically unpopular company. Can I ask you to respond to that?

KELLY: Absolutely. It's not that. In fact, if this amendment had been in place when Jamie went to Iraq, her rape most likely never would have happened. What needed to happen is that companies like Halliburton need to have rules in place that forced their employees to obey those rules that needed to have oversight.

And they're only going to implement such things if their actions are exposed to the light of day. And what happened in the case of Jamie is, for years prior to her arrival there, the environment was allowed to grow and to fester.

And these people, because of the arbitration provision, were never punished. Their actions were disposed of secretly in binding arbitration that couldn't be appealed, even when the arbitrators blatantly disregarded the law.

So they created this environment that they then threw Jamie into. And the rape occurred as a natural and foreseeable consequence of that action. This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with doing the right thing by our young American women and girls that are trying to support this country like Jamie.

MADDOW: Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly, thank for telling this story publicly and fighting for this.

J. JONES: Thank you.

MADDOW: And thank you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.

KELLY: Thank you for having us.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.