30 To 40 Members Of Congress To Be Accused Of Sexual Harassment, Resignations Are Pouring In
CONGRESS’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT SCANDAL IS ABOUT TO GET EVEN WORSE
As the floodgates open, as many as 40 members could be jeopardized by a fresh round of allegations.
When Minnesota Senator Al Franken announced on Thursday that he would resign, he made it clear that he did not believe he had besmirched one of the nation’s fundamental organs of government. “I know in my heart, nothing that I have done as a senator—nothing—has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the Ethics Committee would agree,” he said on the Senate floor, adding that “some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” and others happened “very differently” than they were described to the press. Nevertheless, he stepped aside, becoming the second congressperson to do so in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that week. And it now appears that his resignation is only the tip of a gargantuan iceberg: according to several media reporters, CNN and The Washington Post have dozens of stories in the works to expose at least 20 lawmakers, and potentially as many as 40—over 1 in 10 male members of congress, all told.
Even without the reports in the works, the past two weeks have seen the Weinstein effect rip through Congress, ousting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Texas Republican Joe Barton announced his retirement last week over allegations of inappropriate sexting, though in his resignation statement he denied abusing his power and sexually harassing women. On Tuesday, longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers, whom multiple former staffers have accused of sexual harassment, conceded to mounting callsfor his resignation (but continued to deny wrongdoing). Just hours after Franken’s speech, Republican Congressman Trent Franks announced that he would resign under threat of an ethics probe for allegedly sexually harassing women in his office; in a subsequent statement, Franks claimed that he had asked two of his female employees whether they would serve as surrogates. Observers speculated that there was more to the story, noting that the allegations were serious enough for Speaker Paul Ryan to ask for Franks’s immediate resignation before a probe could be carried out. (The next day, Franks tendered his immediate resignation after his wife was admitted to the hospital.)
Meanwhile Texas Republican Blake Farenthold, faces a similar probe after potential new evidence surfaced about his $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with Lauren Greene, a former aide who said Farenthold sexually harassed her—“The Committee on Ethics does not appear to be letting it lie with the Office of Congressional Ethics’ recommendation not to pursue further,” Greene’s attorney told Politico. (In a separate statement, Farenthold neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, citing the Congressional Accountability Act.) Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen is similarly holding on following claims that he sexually harassed a campaign staffer during the 2016 election, despite House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for his resignation. “This is not about politics,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “That’s the last thing this is about.” (Kihuen has previously denied the allegations.)