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GOP Congressman Says He'll Repay Taxpayer-Funded Sexual Harassment Settlement

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) takes a picture during a House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee meeting on Nov. 18, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — A Texas Republican congressman said he’ll repay $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed against him by his former communications director.

But there has been little indication from GOP leadership that, like with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) is being pressured to resign.

On Friday, Farenthold said in a statement, “While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.”

Farenthold, who has denied Lauren Greene’s claim, told a Corpus Christi TV station Monday that he would take out a personal loan and give House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a check for the settlement money.

“I was completely exonerated by OCE and the settlement agreement has been paid. I’m doing my best and I’m going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody and say, look, here is the amount of my settlement. Give it back to the taxpayers,” he said. “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.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee said in 2015 that there was not “substantial” reason to believe that Farenthold sexually harassed Greene. A settlement was awarded to the former staffer that November. That included a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from talking about details of the case.

In the federal court filing back then, Greene said the congressman said he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her. Greene claimed Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and told her in February 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”

Greene told CNN on Monday that she was told at the time that if she pursued the case “my career on Capitol Hill would be over.”

“As soon as I decided to do this, I kind of had to come to the conclusion that D.C. was no longer going to be in the cards,” she said, noting that if Farenthold wants to be fully transparent and waive the confidentially agreement she would speak openly about her allegations.

“I mean, I have nothing to hide,” Greene said. “I think, you know, I felt I’ve done the right thing, I stood up for myself.”