- Johnathan Silver American-Statesman Staff
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, said Monday that he will reimburse taxpayers for money paid from a House account to settle a sexual harassment complaint.
“Even though I was completely exonerated by (the Office of Congressional Ethics), and the settlement agreement has been paid, I’m doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker (Paul) Ryan or somebody and say, ‘Look, here’s the amount of my settlement; give it back to the taxpayers,’ ” Farenthold told a Corpus Christi television station.
Politico reported Friday that Farenthold settled a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 from the federal government.
Farenthold said he will take out a personal loan to pay back the money, according to KRIS-TV.
“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this, and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying, ‘Blake, you benefited from the system; you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.’ ”
Farenthold used a Congressional Office of Compliance account to pay Lauren Greene, his former communications director, according to the Politico report. NBC News confirmed the report.
In the lawsuit, Greene presented “allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment,” according to Politico.
Greene had alleged that a male employee told her that their boss said he had sexual fantasies about her. She also claimed that Farenthold once told her he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years,” according to the report.
Greene claimed she was fired after complaining about those comments.
Farenthold said in a statement Monday evening that he wanted to settle the lawsuit with his own money.
“From day one of this lawsuit, I hired a private attorney to represent me and was prepared to settle it without taxpayer funds,” he said. “But, I was advised by attorneys from the Office of House Employment Counsel that since the lawsuit was filed against ‘the Office of Representative Farenthold,’ not me personally, I could not pay personally to settle the case.”
The revived conversation about Greene’s lawsuit, settled in 2015, comes after numerous accounts from men and women throughout the country and across industries of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful and high-profile men.
Farenthold’s colleague John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan and the longest-serving member of the House, is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. In the Senate, embattled Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota is having the fight of his political life after several women have claimed he touched them inappropriately. Conyers, Franken and now Farenthold are facing calls to resign.
Farenthold’s district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties.