With Al Franken and John Conyers stepping down from their congressional seats, Republicans are facing charges of partisan hypocrisy on sexual misconduct. Donald Trump and Roy Moore, for example, continue to enjoy the GOP’s institutional support, despite the seriousness of the allegations against them.
But there’s another name that keeps popping up. The New York Daily News reported today:
[T]he case of Conyers and now Franken and others are emerging in relative isolation, perhaps arbitrarily, from a Congress where more misconduct surely lurks.
Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who settled a large sexual harassment claim, remains in office.
Regular readers may recall the Farenthold controversy, which first came to public light three years ago. The Texas Republican’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, accused Farenthold and his chief of staff of creating a hostile work environment, gauging her interest in a sexual relationship. In her court filing, Greene alleged that Farenthold told another staffer that he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her.
The case was settled out of court, but the incident was politically unique: NBC News reported that the $84,000 settlement came by way of the Office of Compliance, the first such taxpayer-funded settlement to be made public.
Farenthold, perhaps best known for his choice in pajamas, said earlier this week that he intends to pay Americans back for the cost of the settlement. The settlement also makes clear that the GOP congressman denies all liability and has acknowledged no wrongdoing.
Greene, meanwhile, has faced “significant professional repercussions” after raising the allegations against Farenthold and “has been unable to land a full-time job.”
So, how many Republicans have called for Farenthold to step down? As best as I can tell, none. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office elaborated on this last week.
“The speaker talked to Rep. Farenthold earlier today. The speaker has made clear any report of sexual harassment is deeply troubling, and those who feel mistreated or violated deserve to have their stories taken seriously,” Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong said in a statement. “In this instance, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics investigated this claim and unanimously voted to dismiss it. Still, there are important questions to answer, including the use of taxpayer dollars for settlements. We will continue our efforts to reform this settlement system.”
But despite the Office of Congressional Ethics recommendation to dismiss the case, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation, which is still open.
Following Conyers’ and Franken’s announcements, I guess the question is what Farenthold’s political standing – and prospects – would look like right now if he were a Democrat.