A list of congressional sex scandals
Lawmakers are grappling with an increasing number of accusations against members and staff, as well as how to improve the system for reporting workplace violations in congressional offices.
Rep. Bobby Scott
At a press conference on Dec. 15, 2017, Macharie Reese Everson, a former legislative aide to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), accused him of sexual misconduct. Everson claimed that Scott inappropriately touched her on two separate occasions on her back and knee, as well as invited her to join him at an event in California. Everson claimed she was wrongfully fired after she rebuffed the lawmaker’s advances, though Scott denied these allegations.
Rep. Trent Franks
According to reports, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) repeatedly asked two female staff members if they would consider being surrogate mothers for Franks and his wife. One former aide said Franks offered to pay $5 million if she conceived him a child. On Dec. 7, 2017, the House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate if Franks had engaged in sexual harassment or misconduct. Speaker Paul Ryan confronted Franks about the allegations directly. Franks stated he did not believe the investigation would be conducted fairly, though he did apologize for making the women uncomfortable. He planned to resign on Jan. 31, but due to family health concerns, he resigned immediately.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen
On Dec. 1, 2017, a former finance director for Rep. Kihuen (D-NV) who worked for his 2016 congressional campaign accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted touching. The woman alleged that Kihuen propositioned her with dates and sex after she rejected them, as well as touched her thighs without her consent. Kihuen said he did not recall his alleged actions toward the aide and apologized if he made her uncomfortable. He faced calls from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other ranking Democrats to resign. On Dec. 15, the House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate the sexual harassment allegations against Kihuen. The following day, Kihuen announced he would not seek reelection, though he supported the investigation to clear his name.
Rep. Blake Farenthold
Former communications director for Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Lauren Greene, claimed the lawmaker had engaged in sexual harassment and gender discrimination, as well as created a hostile work environment. Other coworkers have also alleged that the congressman was verbally abusive and sexually demeaning, by commenting on women’s breasts or behinds. Greene said another aide told her the lawmaker had sexual fantasies about Greene while he was estranged from his wife. When she complained about the misconduct, Greene alleged the congressman improperly fired her. She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, but it was settled out of court in Nov. 2015. In Dec. 2017, it was reported that the settlement (in the amount of $84,000), was paid using taxpayer money—the first publicly known settlement to be taxpayer-funded. Speaker Paul Ryan met with Farenthold twice at night on Dec. 14. The next morning, Farenthold acknowledged that he had fostered an ‘unprofessional’ work environment, and that he would not seek reelection.
Rep. John Conyers Jr.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) was the longest-serving active congressman and a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus when multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were filed against him. Former staffer Elisa Grubbs claimed that the congressman inappropriately touched her and other women while she worked in his office—in one incident, Grubbs said she ran out of the house after Conyers walked out of his bathroom naked while knowing she was present. BuzzFeed reported that a former employee of Conyers who was allegedly sexually harassed was given a taxpayer-funded settlement. On Nov. 21, 2017, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment against Conyers. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Conyers to resign, which he announced on Dec. 5. The announcement came the day after another former staffer released an affidavit accusing Conyers of sexual harassment.
Sen. Al Franken
On Nov. 16, 2017, Leann Tweeden alleged that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) forcibly kissed her on a 2006 tour during a rehearsal for a skit (as well as inappropriately touch her chest). Shortly thereafter, another woman accused Franken of touching her rear while they posed for a photo. Over the next few days, several more women insisted that Franken had mistreated them similarly. Franken said he did not recall any of these incidents but issued an apology. On Nov. 30, the Senate Ethics Committee announced it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Franken. On Dec. 6, two more accusations surfaced, both from congressional aides. The next day, on the floor of the Senate, under pressure from dozens of fellow Democrats and liberal groups, Franken announced he would resign. On Jan. 2, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton appointed the lieutenant government to hold Franken’s seat until a special election in Nov. 2018.
Rep. Tim Murphy
In Sept. 2017, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) admitted to an extramarital affair. He allegedly encouraged his lover to terminate a pregnancy. This earned him staunch criticism, given his strong pro-life position. The sudden furor surrounding Murphy brought several former staffers forward with claims of an abusive work environment—five former employees contacted POLITICO to share their stories. House Republican leaders suggested the allegations be investigated by the House Ethics Committee, but feared it would create a distraction, so instead they pressed for Murphy to resign immediately, which he did on Oct. 21.
Rep. John Barton
In Nov. 2017, nude selfies of Rep. John Barton (R-TX) surfaced online. He confirmed he took the photos from a video of him masturbating, and sent it to women with whom he was having sexual relationships. An anonymous woman told the Washington Post that they had slept together—she submitted recorded phone calls and social media messages as proof. A week later, a second woman shared a series of messages—some with sexual overtones—that Barton had sent to her years ago, while he was still married to his second wife. On Nov. 30, a third woman claimed that Barton had sex with her multiple times in his office while he was married—his second ex-wife reported that she wasn’t surprised about the affair. After facing multiple allegations, Barton announced he would not seek reelection, but will continue to represent his district until Jan. 2019.
Rep. Pat Meehan
On Jan. 20, 2018, the New York Times reported that Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) had used taxpayer funds to settle a suit with a younger staff member, after she alleged he made inappropriate advances toward her and then grew hostile after she rejected his advances. Up until late January, Meehan had been a members of the House Ethics Committee investigating sexual harassment charges, but was removed by House Speaker Paul Ryan after the story was published. Meehan announced he would not seek to run again in 2018, and would repay the taxpayer money if the Ethics Committee determined he committed sexual harassment.
Originally published by Max Skidelsky at gw.therival.news on 2.11.18
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