WASHINGTON -- Arizona Republican Trent Franks said he'll resign from Congress amid an ethics investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, joining the ranks of powerful men in politics, media and entertainment whose careers have been ended by such accusations in recent months.
Franks said in a statement Thursday that he never engaged in intimidation or sought sexual contact with any staff member. He said the Ethics Committee was investigating him for discussing surrogate motherhood with two female staff members. After he and his wife had had twins through the process, they were looking for another surrogate to carry a child for them, he said.
"I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others," he said in the statement. "I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."
Franks, 60, said he takes "full and personal responsibility" for the way he discussed surrogacy with staff. He said he would leave the House on Jan. 31.
He was the second lawmaker to announce his departure from Congress on Thursday. Democratic Sen. Al Franken said he'll resign in the coming weeks to end the turmoil over allegations that he groped or tried to forcibly kiss several women. More than half of his Democratic colleagues demanded he step down to make clear that mistreatment of women is unacceptable.
The Ethics Committee also announced an inquiry into the actions of another Republican House member, Blake Farenthold of Texas. Farenthold was sued in 2014 by his former communications director, who said she was sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of gender. Politco reported last week that Farenthold used taxpayer money to settle the claim.
A wave of mostly women have spoken up about incidents of abuse and harassment since media mogul Harvey Weinstein was fired from his eponymous company in October after reports that alleged years of sexual harassment. The issue has gained more attention in politics after recent reports that Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Alabama's Senate seat, allegedly initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old and romantically pursued other teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was briefed last week on "credible claims of misconduct" by Franks and confronted him, according to a statement from his office. Ryan said he told Franks he should resign.
"The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House," the statement said.
Franks was first elected to represent a solidly Republican district northwest of Phoenix in 2002. In his last run for re-election, he got 69 percent of the vote. He has been an outspoken opponent of abortion and was a member of groups focused on children and families. Franks was a member of the Judiciary Committee and Armed Services Committee, as well as the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
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