Eight-term Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks will resign, the latest politician to end his career over past “inappropriate behavior” – according to his statement, conversations that “made certain individuals uncomfortable.”
“Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear,” Franks said in his statement announcing he was leaving Congress. “I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
Franks, a House Freedom Caucus member and early Tea Party ally, has been married for 37 years and has two young children, the product of the surrogacy he claims sparked the career-ending conversations. He and his wife had suffered three miscarriages and several failed adoption attempts before resorting to surrogacy, whereby another woman carries a couple’s child to term.
“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks continued, before giving his version of how he came to resign:
I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.
We are in an unusual moment in history – there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims.
But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media to damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting. I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made. My time in Congress serving my constituents, America and the Constitution is and will remain one of God’s greatest gifts to me in life.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office issued a statement claiming Ryan turned on Franks almost immediately after hearing the two former staffers’ stories last Wednesday. “The speaker told Rep. Franks that he intended to refer the allegations directly to the House Ethics Committee and told him that he should resign from Congress,” the statement reads.
“The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House,” the Ryan statement continues.
The Hill broke the news of Franks’s coming resignation, citing “two Arizona Republicans with knowledge of the decision” as confirming Franks will resign over claims of inappropriate behavior about to become public. A number of reporters, including the Hill article’s co-author Cristina Marcos, noted a group of fellow “stone-faced” Republicans praying with Franks on the House floor shortly after their report broke:
A group of fellow Republicans just prayed on the House floor with Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who @PoliticsReid reports is resigning. Everyone stone-faced.
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) December 7, 2017
“There’s been rumors swirling around him for years, at least in 2012,” an Arizona Republican who may be one of The Hill’s sources told Roll Call. “And if this turns out to be true, there won’t be that many people who are surprised.”
Roll Call’s source also suggests Franks’ decision to drop his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012 is related to the same “swirling rumors.”
Franks will be the latest in an ongoing stream of retirements over allegations and confirmations of sexual misconduct among powerful men in politics, media, entertainment, and other high-profile positions. In the political realm alone, the flood of accusation and revelations has already claimed the careers of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and brought others, including Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), under intense pressure to resign.
Franks is the first Republican in federal elected office to resign since revelations about Hollywood mogul and Democratic super-donor Harvey Weinstein broke. Republican Ohio state Rep. Wesley Goodman, however, resigned last month after multiple young men accused him of sexual harassment.
Franks’ district, in suburban Phoenix, is solidly Republican. When the seat becomes vacant, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will be charged with calling a special election to fill it.