Republican Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold insists he did nothing wrong and told a local news station he plans to repay taxpayers the $84,000 sexual harassment paid out to a former staffer in 2014.
A former staffer accused Farenthold and his current chief of staff of directing lewd and sexual comments at her, and claimed that Farenthold fired her when she complained. Following the settlement, the Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed the allegations and found “substantial reason to believe” them.
“Even though I was completely exonerated by OCE and the settlement agreement has been paid, I’m doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody, and say look, here’s the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers,” Farenthold told local news station KRISTV.
“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system, without people saying, ‘Blake, you benefitted from the system, you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.'”
Farenthold is one of four congressmen under pressure to resign following accusations of sexual harassment.
Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers is accused of preying on his female staffers and demanding sexual favors from them. Conyers secretly settled with one accuser for more than $27,000 in taxpayer funding, in exchange for her silence.
Sworn affidavits signed by four of Conyers’ former staffers describe him as a sexual predator who abused taxpayer resources to pursue women.
After initially defending the Michigan congressman, Democratic leaders have called on the 88-year-old Conyers to resign. Conyers has denied all wrongdoing.
Democratic Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen is accused of sexually harassing his campaign finance director, who quit during the primary after Kihuen allegedly demanded sex from her on multiple occasions and touched her thighs. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called on Kihuen to resign, but it remains unclear if he will do so.
Six different women have accused Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of sexual misconduct. Five of the women accused Franken of groping their butts or breasts. Two of the women accused Franken of forcibly kissing them. Franken has indicated that he has no plans to resign.