- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rep. Blake Farenthold, who has been accused of sexual harassment and using taxpayer money to settle the lawsuit over it, will not seek re-election, he confirmed Thursday afternoon.

“I’d never served in office before. I had no idea how to run a congressional office. And as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional,” Mr. Farenthold, Texas Republican, said in a video statement.

He also admitted angry outbursts toward staff members, as had been reported in The New York Times earlier this week.

“I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with the respect they deserved. That was wrong,” he said.

Mr. Farenthold was formally accused by at least one former staffer of sexual harassment and misconduct in the office. Former aide Lauren Greene, who left Mr. Farenthold’s office in 2014, told Politico that when she made complaints about the congressman’s lewd behavior and sexual references, she was fired.

He settled the complaint with $84,000 from a congressional fund meant for settling workplace disputes. Mr. Farenthold denied any wrongdoing in the case, though he did promise to repay the funds after the information was made public.

The House Ethics Committee investigated the claim at the time, but recommended dismissing the charges against Mr. Farenthold. After the claim resurfaced, with the lawsuit information, the committee decided to take another look into his office last week.

The filing deadline for Texas candidates was Monday. Mr. Farenthold indicated that he, along with a host of other Republicans, would be submitting their forms. The most viable candidate to succeed Mr. Farenthold, Bech Bruun, is a former Texas Water Development Board chairman. He resigned from the state-government post last week in order to run.

Despite denials and a promise to run again, Monday’s New York Times story brought a host of new accusations from other former aides that corroborated Ms. Green’s account.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday that Mr. Farenthold was making the right decision under the circumstances.

“I had a couple conversations with Blake Farenthold yesterday. I think he’s making the right decision to retire. There are new stories that are very disconcerting. Unacceptable behavior has been alleged in those stories, and I think he’s making the right decision to leave Congress,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said in a press conference with reporters.

Former aides to Mr. Farenthold told The New York Times that beyond the sexual innuendos and drunken flirtatiousness, the congressman was known to have an explosive temper, including throwing objects off people’s desks and threatening to fire people.

Even Mr. Farenthold’s current chief of staff, Bob Haueter, told the Texas Tribune on Monday that Mr. Farenthold’s re-election bid would be a tough one.

“It’s lonelier than it’s been in past times, but he’s not alone,” Mr. Haueter said.

The accusations came in spite of a sexual-harassment training seminar the entire office went through in 2016, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Mr. Ryan was also asked whether members sleeping in their offices — as some do for both affordability and convenience — was a contributing part of a climate of sexual harassment and misconduct on Capitol Hill.

“This is simply a convenience factor, and I don’t think it’s connected to anything else,” he said.

Mr. Ryan is one of the members known to sleep in his office, saying that when he’s not working, he resides at his home in Wisconsin and thus has no need for a separate home in Washington, D.C.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide