The lawmaker who authored the measure requiring sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and their staffs is among elected leaders calling on U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold to resign amid reports that he settled a harassment lawsuit by a former aide with taxpayers’ money.
"The congresswoman (believes) he should resign,” Jeff Marschner, deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, told the USA Today Network on Friday. “He should pay back the money to the taxpayers.”
Farenthold, a four-term Republican who represents part of Texas’ Coastal Bend region, was the target of a 2014 federal lawsuit by his former communications director that alleged he fostered a sexually charged work atmosphere with remarks about erotic fantasies and other crude behavior.
No resignation will be forthcoming, said spokeswoman Stacey Daniels. "The congressman maintains that he has done nothing wrong. He intends to continue to serve and seek re-election," she said,
Farenthold has denied the allegations but did agree to the settlement, reached in late 2015. Last week, he said he would repay the U.S. Treasury the $84,000 paid to the former aide, Lauren Greene. He also said, citing congressional rule and terms of the settlement, that he was barred from discussing the matter in detail.
The House last week adopted the resolution by Comstock requiring anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training each time a new Congress is seated. The measure passed on a voice vote. Marschner said his boss also supports allowing the terms of harassment settlement to be disclosed.
Meanwhile, two other congress members said in interviews with CNN that Farenthold should follow the leads of U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, who on Thursday announced that they would leave Congress in light of allegations of sexual improprieties.
In separate interviews, U.S. Reps. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said all members of Congress should be held accountable in such matters.
“I think he should voluntarily resign because I believe we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Love told CNN. “Where he may not feel like his behavior was inappropriate, obviously somebody did."
Cummings noted that Michigan Congressman John Conyers heeded the chorus of his fellow Democratic lawmakers who demanded he leave office after it was revealed that he also had settled sexual harassment claims.
"I think the standard has been set already,” Cummings told CNN. “You saw Mr. Conyers exit and I think the same should apply to Farenthold."
Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was planning to investigate the allegations against Farenthold.
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