After learning of a congressional ethics investigation into inappropriate conversations about surrogacy with his female staff, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) announced he will resign from Congress in January.
“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable,” Franks said in a statement. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”
Franks cited infertility issues with his wife to explain the conversations he had had with female staffers.
“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said in the statement.
Reports of Franks’s resignation broke earlier in the day, but the congressman refused to answer any questions regarding his decision. According to a statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, Ryan was informed of the allegations against the Arizona lawmaker last week, confronted Franks about them, filed the claims with the House Ethics Committee and advised Franks to resign.
In Franks’s statement, he said he did not feel that he would have been able to undergo a “fair” House Ethics Committee investigation in the current “cultural and media climate” surrounding workplace and sexual harassment. He said he believed the media would distort his story:
But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House Leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018.
Franks, who is a deeply conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus, and one of the most pro-life members of Congress — he has previously compared abortion to slavery and the Holocaust — is the second lawmaker to announce their resignation Thursday.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced earlier on Thursday he would be leaving his seat in the coming weeks, amid eight sexual misconduct allegations.
Congress has come under increased scrutiny as a breeding ground for harassment. The House and Senate recently took action to mandate sexual and workplace harassment training for all lawmakers and their staff. Several news reports have shown just how pervasive harassment is in the Washington power center as current and former female members of Congress continue to come forward with their experiences being harassed by their male colleagues.
As sexual harassment awareness grows as a national flashpoint, all eyes are on the high-stakes, high-pressure environment in Congress, where the striking power imbalance between low-paid employees and the nation’s most powerful politicians all too often allows for unfettered corruption and misconduct.
“We are in an unusual moment in history — there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims,” Franks said in the statement.
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