Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned on Friday, four months after being implicated in a sexual harassment scandal. The Republican politician had initially promised to serve out the rest of his term without seeking re-election.
“While I had planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it’s time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” said Farenthold in a video statement. The announcement – called ‘abrupt’ by the Star Advertiser – took effect at 5p.m. the same day.
Farenthold came under fire when former staffer Laure Greene accused the representative of sabotaging her career. Asked to wear short skirts and shirts that “showed [her] nipples,” Greene filed a complaint through the congressional Office of Compliance.
While she received a taxpayer-subsidized settlement of $84,000, Greene claims taking a stand cost her the opportunity to continue working in politics.
“I was told right away that I would be, quote-unquote, ‘blackballed’ if I came forward […] That’s exactly what happened,” she said, speaking to Politico.com in a December interview.
Not long after, Farenthold recorded a statement proclaiming his own innocence. Denying that she’d been sexually harassed and then fired for complaining, the Republican did admit that something was amiss. Instead of owning up to what seems to have been a chronic problem, he apologized for creating an office atmosphere that included “destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that, in general, was less than professional.”
Washington, writes Star Advertiser, has been embroiled in scandal since autumn. Eight lawmakers have either resigned or abandoned re-election bids after being faced with accusations ranging from sexual harassment to molestation.
The ‘#MeToo’ movement on social media prompted criticism of Congress and its policy of offering confidential settlements to men and women who suffered injustice by national-level lawmakers. Confidentiality, said proponents of #MeToo, enabled predators to silence their victims while continuing to break the law and harass vulnerable employees.
Farenthold’s sudden resignation spurred quick, cold responses from the GOP.
The head of the Republican Party’s campaign committee said in a statement Friday that he hopes Farenthold stays “true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money that he used as a settlement.”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) said, “Congress must hold ourselves to a higher standard and regain the trust of the American people.”
Star Advertiser recounts how Farenthold, in his resignation video, thanked family and former staffers for their support, saying, “Leaving my service in the House, I’m able to look back on the entirety of my career in public service and say it was well worthwhile.
“I look forward to staying in touch with everyone,” said Farenthold, who’d framed himself as a family-values lawmaker. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve.”