- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - House Speaker Scott Bedke is speaking out against recent accusations of inappropriate behavior posted on a far-right blog.

Redoubt News, an online publication favored by right-wing conservatives, published last week an affidavit of a former legislative committee secretary Lissa Cochrane accusing Bedke of making salacious comments during a crowded House State Affairs Committee meeting in 2012, which she says were overheard by her and other lawmakers.

Bedke denied the allegations at a meeting and said he no recollection ever talking to Cochrane while she worked as a committee secretary.

Cochrane did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to the affidavit, Cochrane said she decided to speak out after reading an Associated Press article that said Bedke had temporarily stripped Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, of her committee assignments in January for accusing female lawmakers of only moving ahead in the Statehouse by trading sexual favors. Scott has since been reinstated to her assignments, but her strong far-right supporters, which includes Redoubt News, have since cried foul and demanded increased scrutiny over the actions and comments made by legislative leadership.

Bedke briefed the House Republican caucus of the issue Monday morning, leaving before anyone had time to respond.

“I can let water roll off my back, but I’m duty-bound to protect my wife and my family and the speakership and the institution of the House of Representatives,” Bedke said. “I don’t think this is right, and I don’t think this is about what we’re about in Idaho. I think we’re much better than this.”

Bedke declined to comment if he believed Cochrane’s actions were politically motivated, but he did say he alerted legislative leaders at the beginning of the session that these accusations may come out after seeing several indications it was a possibility. He then declined to expand on what indications he received.

In 2013, Bedke hired Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, an attorney from Idaho Falls, to send Cochrane a formal letter asking her to quit contacting him after he said she repeatedly sent him unwanted texts, a letter and a box of candy. Bedke then reported the incidents to the Idaho State Police and attorney general’s office.

According to an Idaho State Police report, Cochrane told investigators that she and Bedke were going to get married even though they had never been alone together.

The Idaho State Police investigated the allegations, but no charges were ever brought against Cochrane.

The Attorney General’s office did not immediately return calls for comment. Meanwhile, Idaho State Police officials said they had no one available to comment because of the holiday.

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