House Republican Farenthold to Retire Amid Sex Harassment Claim

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(Bloomberg) -- Republican Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas won’t seek re-election, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday, making him the fourth member of Congress brought down this month by allegations of sexual misconduct.

"I think he’s making the right decision to retire," Ryan said at a news conference. "There are new stories that are very disconcerting."

Farenthold, 56, settled a sex harassment claim by a former staff member with $84,000 of taxpayer money, Politico reported two weeks ago. He had been sued in 2014 by his former communications director, who said she was sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of gender.

Farenthold had refused two weeks ago to confirm or deny Politico’s report of the settlement. Last week, the House Ethics Committee announced an inquiry into Farenthold’s actions.

CNN reported this week that another former aide to Farenthold described abusive behavior by the congressman, including sexually graphic jokes and screaming fits.

Ryan of Wisconsin said he spoke with Farenthold on Wednesday.

Conyers Resignation

When Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan resigned on Dec. 5 amid sexual harassment allegations, third-ranking House Democrat James Clyburn questioned why Conyers was being forced out while there was "radio silence" from Ryan’s office on Farenthold.

"What is the difference?" asked Clyburn of South Carolina.

Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota announced last week he will resign soon amid allegations by several women of unwanted groping and kissing. Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona quit last week, under pressure from Ryan, after acknowledging he discussed surrogate motherhood with two members of his staff.

Farenthold, a former conservative radio host, was among the lawmakers elected in 2010 as part of the right-wing backlash to the Obama administration. He opposes abortion rights, seeks to cut government spending and in 2013 told constituents at a town-hall meeting, "I’m a Texan -- my idea of gun control is hitting what you aim at and nothing else."

In July, Farenthold suggested in a radio interview that if GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine weren’t a woman he might challenge her to a duel because of her opposition to holding a vote to get rid of Obamacare. Collins later said she had received a handwritten apology from him.

Democratic Representative Ruben Kihuen of Nevada also is being pressured to leave Congress. Kihuen was accused by his former campaign finance director of unwanted touching and advances. Another women, who was a lobbyist when Kihuen was a state senator, accused him of touching her and sending her suggestive messages by text and Facebook, according to the Nevada Independent website.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who has called on Kihuen to resign, said Thursday that she’s spoken to him but that “he wants to go through the ethics process.”

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