Does Paul Ryan still think there's "no substantial reason to believe" the mounting allegations against Blake Farenthold?
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) found himself at the center of the sexual misconduct firestorm sweeping through Washington DC when it was revealed on Dec. 1 that he had used over $80,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director. Despite agreeing to the payout, Farenthold denied the allegations — and Republicans lined up behind him.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, through his spokeswoman, said the Office of Congressional Ethics had investigated the matter and that there was "no substantial reason to believe" the accusations brought forth by Lauren Greene, who worked as Farenthold's communications director for two years. Greene described the work environment in the congressman's office as "emotionally damaging," and said she believes the account of another ex-aide who reported that Farenthold sexually harassed her.
Now, another former aide who worked for Farenthold in 2015 has come forward to share graphic new details about his behavior with the House Ethics Committee. The damning new allegations of verbal abuse and sexual harassment paint a disturbing picture of Farenthold's workplace conduct, which was reportedly so vulgar that it caused one aide to "seek medical treatment and psychological counseling, and at one point, caused him to vomit daily."
The new account also calls into question Ryan's attempt to discredit the initial allegations, and puts the spotlight on Farenthold's Republican colleagues, who have remained deafeningly silent despite calling on Democratic members of congress to resign over accusations of sexual misconduct.
Last week, Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) all announced that would be leaving office after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. Franken and Conyers resigned amid growing pressure from their Democratic colleagues, many of whom issued public statements calling on them to step down.
Yet even in the face of mounting allegations against Farenthold, not a single member of congressional GOP leadership, nor anyone in the White House, has called for his resignation. To date, Reps. Mia Love and Barbara Comstock are the only Republican members of congress who have called on Farenthold to resign.
The disturbing new details about Farenthold — which include accusations that he subjected his aides to fits of rage, slamming his fists on desks, verbal abuse, and sexually explicit comments —raise serious questions about the environment in which current aides may be working. But as long as Republican leaders like Ryan refuse to take such reports seriously, Farenthold is likely to remain in office.
In fact, Farenthold recently said he plans to run for congress again in 2018.
"The congressman maintains that he has done nothing wrong," said his spokeswoman Stacey Daniels. "He intends to continue to serve and seek re-election."
All of this comes just a day after Republicans lost a Senate seat because they embraced an accused child molester and expected voters to do the same. Now, they're allowing a congressman accused of serial sexual harassment and verbal abuse to continue to work in their midst and plan for his re-election campaign.
Worst of all is that it's coming from the top. Even in the face of mounting allegations against Farenthold, Ryan still hasn't given any indication that he believes them — or that he sees a need to take action.
Apparently, once you go all-in on an accused child molester, anything goes.