- Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
A bit late, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told us Thursday he didn’t know how to run a congressional office when he won the job in 2010. It’s kind of too bad he didn’t tell us that back then or during his latter three successful races for the office.
The overdue admission came as he announced he’s changed his mind and will not seek a fifth term. Good call, Farenthold. Not a close call, but a good call nonetheless, particularly because he also told us he’s still working toward the proper running of a congressional office.
Blame-throw though he might (“I wanted the opportunity to explain myself and the broken system in Washington that in many ways has left me in the position I’m in.”), Farenthold is a victim of two things: his own unacceptable, beyond-boorish behavior and the solid journalism that disclosed it.
Thank you, journalism.
Three days after the filing period ended for the 2018 elections, Farenthold, in a video posted on Facebook, apologized for running a taxpayer-funded workplace he said included “destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional.” I’ll let you read the tawdry details elsewhere.
Farenthold continued to deny the sexual harassment allegations of a former female aide who got a taxpayer-funded $84,000 settlement that he now says he will repay to the government. That denial aside, Farenthold’s Thursday statement was an attempted apology. He earned points for the attempt.
Rookie mistakes, he said.
“I’d never served in public office before,” he reminded us. “I had no idea how to run a congressional office. And as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional.
“It accommodated destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional. And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with respect that they deserved. That was wrong. Clearly, it’s not how I was raised, it’s not who I am, and for that situation I am profoundly sorry. An unprofessional work environment is not a crime, but it’s embarrassing to me and to my family.”
But don’t worry, he’s still working on it: “I’m resolved over the coming days and weeks and months to institute meaningful changes in my official office. I owe that to everyone, my constituents, my family and this institution.”
I’ve got to think it also would have been helpful if Farenthold had told voters back in 2010 that he had no idea how to run a congressional office. As a voter, I’d take something like that into consideration. We are blessed that other congressional newbies figure out how to run their offices without going what we’ll now call “Farenthold.”
You’ve got to wonder what in his pre-Congress life told him that how he wound up running the office would be a good way to do it. He’s a lawyer, and he’s been a radio host and founded a computer consulting/web design firm. I’ve never worked in those kinds of offices so I don’t know what goes on there. But I bet there are folks who have worked in those kinds of offices who somehow would have figured out how to run a congressional office with respect and professionalism.
Farewell, Farenthold, and the sooner the better. The people of his district deserve better sooner. I appreciate that he’s still working on how to run his office, but he’s had enough time. Farenthold should quit now and clear the way for a special election to replace him long before his current term ends in January 2019.
Here’s the takeaway for all of us. In addition to asking congressional candidates for their positions on foreign policy, taxes, health care and the other pressing issues of our time, we should ask this:
Do you have any basic understanding of how to treat your fellow humans, perhaps especially the ones who work with and for you?