The tide of controversy associated with allegations of sexual harassment that has swept the nation and Capitol Hill, forced another lawmaker in the U.S. House to leave his job, as Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) announced on Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2018, acknowledging that his staff management had been “decidedly unprofessional.”
“I had no idea how to run a Congressional office,” Farenthold said in a Facebook video.
“I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional,” the Texas Republican added.
While Farenthold said he had allowed ‘destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes,” he denied charges of sexual misconduct that had swirled around him.
“I want to be perfectly clear, the charges that were made are false,” he said.
Farenthold had already pledged to repay an $84,000 payment made by Congress to a former staffer, who had alleged sexual misconduct – but in recent days, it became clearer that remaining in his U.S. House seat was becoming a more and more precarious situation.
“I had a couple of conversations with Blake Farenthold yesterday,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference.
“There are new stories that are very disconcerting,” the Speaker added. “I think he’s making the right decision to retire.”
Asked about payments – like those made in the Farenthold case – Ryan said there really isn’t a ‘special fund’ for members of Congress, instead it comes out of the same type of payments made to workers in the Legislative Branch for all sorts of matters that turn into legal issues.
The decision by Farenthold is the latest in a string of stories about lawmakers and sexual misconduct – last week, they forced the resignations of two House members, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), as well as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
While Farenthold’s announcement envisions him finishing out his current term in Congress, there is still a pending investigation against him in the House Ethics Committee; it’s still possible that could change the calculus on his departure date.
At this date, 20 currently-serving members of the House have decided not to run for re-election in 2018, another 17 are running for a different political office – that’s a 9 percent change – with much more probably on the way.