Last Updated Dec 14, 2017 12:40 PM EST
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, announced Thursday that he won’t seek re-election next year in a video statement published on his Facebook page. He has been under pressure from sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced three years ago but have come under renewed focus.
“I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional,” He said in the video post. “It accommodated destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes and behavior in general that was less than professional. I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with respect that they deserve. That was wrong.”
However, Farenthold went on to deny sexual harassment allegations against him. “I want to be perfectly clear. The charges that were made are false,” he said.
Nonetheless, the Texas representative said he would not seek re-election at the end of his term. “I’m announcing my decision not to run for reelection. Let me just say I’m proud of the work I’ve done in my office and what we’ve accomplished,” Farenthold said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he thought Farenthold was making the “right decision” to retire. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Farenthold to resign during her weekly news conference Thursday morning.
Farenthold’s retirement came after another former Farenthold aide, Michael Rekola, came forward Wednesday and said he reported Farenthold’s sexually demeaning and abusive behavior to the House Ethics Committee. In an interview to CNN, he talked about the abuse he had been subjected to when he worked for Farenthold as his communications director in 2015. Rekola complained of sexual jokes and bullying that ultimately led him to seek medical and psychological help. He described a hostile work environment in the congressman’s office during an interview, telling CNN that Farenthold would break into screaming fits of rage and use expletives when describing staffers.
In the interview, Rekola also said that prior to his wedding, Farenthold used lewd language in reference to Rekola’s fiancee. He quit shortly after his wedding. Another former Farenthold aide, Elizabeth Peace, also confirmed that Farenthold’s use of inappropriate language, and she said she was present when Farenthhold allegedly made the comments about the woman who is now Rekola’s wife.
The accusations surfaced as the House Ethics Committee continues its investigation into Farenthold, following a Politico report that Lauren Greene, his former communications director, received an $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement after suing the congressman in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.
Three members of Congress facing sexual harassment accusations announced their resignations last week. Last week, Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, resigned amid reports of sexual misconduct, as did Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, also recently resigned, after a report that he offered a former aide $5 million to carry his child.
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