Congressman to pay back harassment settlement
by Leigh Jones
Posted 12/04/17, 02:54 pm
UPDATE: Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, told a TV station in Corpus Christi he would pay back taxpayers for a settlement with an employee who accused him of sexual harassment.
“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for this,” Farenthold told KRIS-TV. “And I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without having people say ‘Blake, you’ve benefited from the system. You don’t have the right to talk about it or fix it.’” Farenthold said he was taking out a personal loan to pay the settlement—a reported $84,000—and would present a check to House Speaker Paul Ryan this week.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (11:24 a.m.): Two more lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives, a Democrat and a Republican, face calls to resign amid sexual harassment accusations. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., said he does not recall incidents described by a former campaign finance director who accused the first-term congressman of repeatedly asking her for dates and sex last year. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she found the woman’s account credible and on Monday called for Kihuen to resign. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also pressed for Kihuen’s resignation. Republican leaders are taking a more nuanced approach to Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a complaint filed in 2014 by his former communications director. Lauren Greene accused Farenthold of sexually harassing her and creating a hostile work environment, eventually firing her when she complained. In 2015, after reaching a settlement with Greene, Farenthold denied any wrongdoing. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called any report of sexual harassment “deeply troubling” but noted the independent Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Greene’s claim. It recommended the House Ethics Committee dismiss the accusations, “as there is not substantial reason to believe that Rep. Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against complainant.” Democratic leaders have called for an ethics investigation against Kihuen. He would be the third Democratic lawmaker, along with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, to face ethics investigations over sexual harassment accusations.
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Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.