The ultra-conservative Arizona Republican announced his immediate resignation from Congress in the wake of a growing ethics scandal.
On Thursday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) announced that he would be resigning from Congress in January. But January came early, as just one day later, Franks released a new statement that he would instead be resigning effective immediately, due in part to his wife’s unspecified “ongoing ailment.”
What’s the reason for Franks’ sudden expedited schedule? In his original explanation on Thursday, Franks claimed it was because he had discussed “surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.” Franks said he and his wife “struggled with infertility,” ultimately had twins by way of a surrogate pregnancy, and had “a desire to have at least one additional sibling.”
But that was not the full story.
Politico reports that “it was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization.” Franks also allegedly “tried to persuade a female aide that they were in love by having her read an article that described how a person knows they’re in love with someone.”
When the aide rejected Franks’ advances, her access to him was revoked in what seemed an act of retribution.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that a former aide says Franks tried to persuade her to carry his baby by offering her $5 million.
Franks, it seems, was trying to use the bodies of his staffers to expand his family, like a real-life Handmaid’s Tale.
In his original statement, Franks attempted to portray himself as a martyr in an unfair process:
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 damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018.
However, the allegations against Franks are far more substantial than he described. It is not clear why he thought he could remain in office for another two months without these details emerging.
Franks has been one of the most radical right-wing activists in the House. He has an astonishing record of open bigotry, calling marriage equality “a threat to the nation’s survival.” In 2010, he claimed that African-Americans were better off under “the policies of slavery.”
Franks is most infamous for his anti-abortion agenda. He has led the fight in the House to ban abortion at 20 weeks. He has compared it to slavery and the Holocaust. In 2013, he opposed an exception to an anti-abortion bill for rape victims because, he wrongly claimed, “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”
Franks was relying on the same false claim that landed Missouri Republican Todd Akin in so much trouble in 2012, when he said women’s bodies cannot be impregnated in cases of “legitimate rape.” This ridiculous and medically inaccurate theory, that women’s bodies reject impregnation in cases of rape, actually originated with Nazis who experimented on women in concentration camps.
Franks has been an open enemy of women and their bodily autonomy during his tenure in Congress. It would seem he has been one in his private life as well.