Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), whose nude picture leaked online this week, told a woman in 2015 to whom he sent explicit photos and videos that he would report her to the Capitol Police if she tried to damage his political career.
Barton apologized Wednesday after the picture and an accompanying explicit text message circulated online. He said the messages were sent to a woman with whom he had a consensual relationship while he was separated from his wife pending a divorce. That would place the picture before his divorce was finalized in 2015.
“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended,” Barton said in a statement. “I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”
The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that the woman shared a 2015 phone conversation with the paper in which Barton told her not to use the messages to damage her career.
“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording shared with the Post: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”
“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”
Barton then responded: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”
The woman, who spoke anonymously to the Post said her relationship with Barton began in 2011 when she posted to his Facebook page. After becoming friends, she said Barton started flirting and sending explicit messages — something she said made her uncomfortable at first.
“He says to me, ‘Do you want me to send you a picture of myself?’ I said, ‘Oh no, no. Please do not do that.’ It kind of started there,” she told the Post.
She said they would exchange messages even when he was on the House floor or in committee meetings. In 2012 she flew to Washington, was given a tour of the Capitol and they later slept together. They would go on to sleep together again in 2014 in Texas, she said, adding that Barton paid for her travel both times.
A copy of a video Barton sent to her of him masturbating was obtained by Infowars — a video that was later removed from the website. According to the Post, the image appears to have been captured from that video, but she says she did not post the image herself. She also told the Post that she did never had an intention to use the messages to retaliate against Barton.
Barton told the Post that the Capitol Police are opening an inquiry and that the transcript may be evidence of a crime committed against him.
“This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship,” Barton said. “When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.”
The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas legislators passed a revenge porn law in 2015. That law made it illegal to depict “another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct” without their consent. Breaking that law is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine.
Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told the Morning News that it is unclear if the law applies in Barton’s case as many details are vague, but that the law is “designed to address situations exactly like this, where a person from a past relationship who has consensually taken images decides to air those naughty pictures in an effort to harm the person they’re no longer in a relationship with.”
The woman says Barton was not abusive in the relationship, although she said he was “manipulative and dishonest and misleading” with her and other women with whom she knew he had relationships. In explaining her reasons for coming forward, she told the Post it is “not normal for a member of Congress who runs on a GOP platform of family values and conservatism to be scouring the Internet looking for a new sexual liaison.”
The Post notes that while Barton is a reliable vote for conservative legislation and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, he is not a culture warrior and in the late 90’s brushed off Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, saying he didn’t “give a fig” what someone does in their bedroom — only if they lie under oath.
Barton has served in Congress since 1985 and represents suburban Dallas. He is running for reelection but indicated to the Texas Tribune he may reconsider in light of this embarrassing revelation.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.