Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 5:58 AM
By: Johnathan Silver, Austin American-Statesman
AUSTIN, Texas — U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, Texas, told KRIS-TV Monday that he will reimburse taxpayers following a Politico report that he settled a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 from the federal government.
“Even though I was completely exonerated by [the Office of Congressional Ethics], and the settlement agreement has been paid, I’m doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody and say ‘look, here’s the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers,’” Farenthold said in the interview.
“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this, and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying Blake, you benefited from the system, you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.”
Farenthold used a Congressional Office of Compliance account to pay former staffer Lauren Greene, according to the Friday Politico report. NBC News subsequently confirmed the report.
In the lawsuit, Greene presented “allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment,” according to Politico.
Greene had alleged that a male employee told her that their boss said he had sexual fantasies about her. She also claimed that Farenthold once told her he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years,” according to the report.
Greene also claimed she was fired after complaining about those comments.
The revived conversation around Greene’s lawsuit comes after numerous accounts from men and women throughout the country and across industries of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful and high-profile men.
Farenthold’s colleague, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan and the longest serving member of the House, is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. In the Senate, embattled lawmaker Al Franken of Minnesota is having the fight of his political life after several women have claimed he touched them inappropriately.
In Texas, The Daily Beast and The Texas Tribune last month detailed claims of sexual harassment and assault by male lawmakers and others over the years at the statehouse. The reports mostly relied on anonymous sources.
Farenthold’s district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties.