Nine lawmakers forced to quit US Congress in past six months over sexual abuse

Members of US Congress give a standing ovation to visiting French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint session in the House Chamber at the US Capitol April 25, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

Nine US lawmakers have been forced to quit their posts over sexual abuse charges or workplace misconduct in the past six months, with the recent resignation of a Pennsylvania Republican congressman being the latest instance.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker, Representative Patrick Meehan announced Friday that he would resign from Congress immediately following reports that he had paid a secret settlement – or ‘hush money’ – to a staffer “who he allegedly confessed his love to,” The Washington Post reported Saturday, noting that Meehan had stated in January that he would retire near the conclusion of his current term in December but he decided to resign now as congressional ethics probe into his case “heats up.”

US Capitol Hill

Since numerous sexual abuse allegations against Jewish Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced in 2017, the so-called #MeToo era has brought down some of the most powerful public figures in American politics, media and entertainment.

At one point in December 2017, the report adds, three members of the US Congress had to quit their legislative posts in one week.

However, the US Congress has so far failed to enact laws to make it easier for congressional staffers to report sexual or other forms of misconduct by powerful members of Congress and their top aides.

The following is a recap of the misconduct allegations that have shaken the Capitol Hill and led to the resignation of a significant number of US lawmakers within a short period.

In the latest case, Meehan reportedly wrote what appeared to be love notes to a female staffer, but when they became public he referred to the former aid during an interview with a local daily as his “soul mate.”

He later attempted to clarify that by soul mate he actually meant something like an “office buddy,” according to The Post, which further noted that Meehan also declared on Friday that he’ll pay back the $39,000 of taxpayer money used to bribe the former staffer to keep quite. 

Another Republican congressman from state of Texas, Blake Farenthold, announced his resignation earlier this month over sexual scandals stretching back seven years.

Republican congressman from state of Texas, Blake Farenthold, announced his resignation in April 2018 over sexual scandals stretching back seven years. (Photo by AP)

“Duck pajamas, a goofy grin and his arm slung around a lingerie model was just the start. The end for Farenthold resulted from accusations from staffers — male and female — of sexual harassment and verbal abuse,” said the US daily.

Farenthold, like Meehan, had also originally announced plans to retire at the end of the year, but abruptly stated earlier in the month that he is resigning immediately as he faced a House ethics probe.

Another interesting case involves Connecticut’s Democratic congresswoman Elizabeth Esty – the only female lawmaker in the list – who announced earlier in April that she would not seek reelection after US media outlets revealed that she allowed her chief of staff stay on the job for three months despite knowing that he had allegedly threatened to kill another staffer whom he had dated.

The youngest lawmaker in the list is the 37-year-old Nevada Democratic Congressman Ruben Kihuen, who announced in December that he would not seek reelection amid sexual harassment allegations, including reports from women who worked for his successful campaign for his first term in the US House of Representatives.

Former comedian and Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is the only senator to quit Congress so far in the #MeToo era. By the time he reluctantly resigned last December, he had been accused of “groping multiple women over the span a decade,” according to the report.

US Democratic Senator Al Frankel of Minnesota also quite Congress in December 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations. (File photo)

Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks also resigned in the same week as Franken following reports that he offered a female staffer $5 million if she would carry his child. The woman told investigators that Franks approached her with a written contract.

Veteran Democratic Congressman from Michigan, Rep. John Conyers Jr. also stepped down the same week as Franks and Franken, following allegations from six women that he had behaved inappropriately or made sexual advances over the past two decades. The 88-year-old African-American lawmaker denied the allegations but House Democratic leadership succeeded in pushing him out.

Another Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton further announced last November his plan to retire from the US legislative body in 2018 after a nude photo of him circulated on the Internet. It later turned out that the photo revealed a secret relationship with a woman despite being legally married.

Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton announced his retirement in November 2017  after a nude photo of him circulated on the Internet while having an affair with a woman. (File photo)

According to The Post, “Barton's story parallels the allegations of others on the list in one key way: He is accused of using his power as a member of Congress to investigate the woman for sharing the photo of him.”

The resignation of another Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tim Murphy in early October of 2017 was one of the first of this era amid reports that the eight-term lawmaker had asked a woman with whom he was having an affair with to get an abortion.

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