Former Arizona senator reports being molested while running in Iowa

FILE - Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks during a rally at Tucson International Airport, Oct. 30, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. McSally has said she was molested while jogging along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She described the Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023 morning attack in a video she posted online. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A former United States senator from Arizona has said she was molested while jogging along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Martha McSally described the Wednesday morning attack in a video she posted online.

“A man came up behind me and he engulfed me in a bear hug and he molested and fondled me until I fought him off,” she said. “I then chased him down. I said a lot of swear words in this moment. I was in a fight, flight or freeze. And I chose to fight.”

After McSally chased the man into the brush at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, she called police.

Council Bluffs Police said in a statement that McSally lost sight of the man before officers arrived around 11 a.m., and he escaped. Police are still looking for him.

The former Senator turned keynote speaker who failed to win reelection in 2020 said she was in the area to deliver a speech about courage just across the Missouri River in Omaha Wednesday night.

The first woman to fly a fighter plan in combat said in the video that she was OK, but that the assault “tapped into a nerve of other sexual abuse and assault that I’ve been through in the past.”

McSally disclosed during a 2019 Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military that she had been raped by a superior officer in the Air Force. She didn't report that assault at the time because she didn't trust the system, but she said Wednesday: “I took my power back. He tried to take power from me, but I turned it on him and he was running from me instead of the other way around.”

McSally said she still has a lot to process, and in a follow-up video Thursday she said she was overcome with emotion while she was working on a Power Point presentation in the airport ahead of another speech in Chicago.

McSally served in the Air Force from 1988 until 2010 and rose to the rank of colonel before entering politics. She served two terms in the House before narrowly losing a bid to represent Arizona in the Senate against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

In 2018 she was appointed to replace longtime GOP Sen. John McCain after his death.