In the past few weeks, a cascade of sexual harassment allegations has forced three lawmakers to resign: Senator Al Franken announced he would step down after more than half a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, Rep. John Coyners, retired after multiple women alleged he sexually harassed them, and Rep. Trent Franks resigned after he tried to persuade female staffers to be his surrogate and they complained.
One name conspicuously missing from this resignation list is Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican representing Texas’ 27th district, who used $84,000 in congressional funds to settle a former staffer’s sexual harassment claim. Lauren Green, a Politico report revealed at the beginning of December, was fired as Farenthold’s communications director in 2014 after she reported his abuse. Her lawsuit detailed a staggeringly hostile work environment, especially for women:
Greene, in a December 2014 lawsuit, accused Farenthold of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. She said he told another aide in the office that he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her — and that she could wear shirts that showed her nipples anytime she wanted.
After settling the case, Green’s career was effectively finished—while Farenthold was able to not only continue serving, but do so without reprimand. When his settlement with Green was first published by Politico, Farenthold agreed to payback congress for the settlement funds. Republican leaders, who called on Franken to resign but were perfectly comfortable with voters deciding the fate of an accused sexual predator, remained mum on the subject of Farenthold’s resignation. (Rep. Barbara Comstock was one of the only Republicans to call for Farenthold’s resignation.)
A new CNN report on Farenthold’s history of sexual harassment might force the GOP’s hand, however. On Wednesday, two former staffers spoke to CNN about the Texas congressman’s serial abuse. Michael Rekola, who was Farenthold’s communications director in 2015, said that the congressman would regularly berate aides—bullying that was so severe, it caused him to “vomit daily.” And then there’s this astounding claim:
Rekola was about to leave town to get married in July 2015, when, he said, Farenthold, standing within earshot of other staffers in his Capitol Hill office, said to the groom-to-be: “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” He then proceeded to joke about whether Rekola’s now-wife could wear white on her wedding day — a clear reference, Rekola said, to whether she had had premarital sex.
Vomit-inducing, indeed! Another staffer, Elizabeth Peace, confirmed Farenthold’s comment and added the he regularly referred to aides as “fucktards.” Peace also told CNN that “sexual jokes were a constant in Farenthold’s office,” which I am somehow not shocked to hear. He also seems to have an anger management problem:
Peace said the congressman would throw objects in angry bursts, and sometimes wipe all of the objects off of his desk, leaving aides scrambling to clean up the mess.
In an email to CNN, Farenthold denied making the comment about oral sex, but he admitted to calling his staff “fucktards” in a joking way—because he’s definitely not angry! A House Ethics Committee investigation into his behavior is ongoing, but, at this point, that seems unnecessary. Farenthold should resign—and his Republican colleagues should encourage him to do so, just like Franken’s Democratic colleagues.