Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said Thursday he is resigning next month after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers.
The eight-term lawmaker, a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion, said in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff.
Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife, who have struggled with infertility, have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy.
Franks, 60, says he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years and “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.”
He said he regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace” with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.
In a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the allegations “serious and requiring action” and said he told Franks he should resign.
Franks said he will step down effective Jan. 31.
In a one-page statement late Thursday, the House Ethics Committee said its members were examining whether Franks “engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.” The statement provided no further detail and noted that while it was establishing an investigative subcommittee that did not mean any violation of law or House rules had occurred.
Ethics is unlikely to proceed in light of the resignation.
On Thursday afternoon, Franks was seen being consoled in the House chamber by several other Republicans. They included Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Alabama’s Robert Aderholt and fellow Arizonan Andy Biggs.
Asked for comment as he left the floor, Franks said, “I’ll let the statement speak for itself.”
Franks has been a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. He’s a staunch social conservative who sponsored House-passed legislation to make it a crime for any person to perform an abortion if the age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.
Earlier Thursday, liberal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced his resignation after facing allegations of sexual harassment by at least eight women. Franken said some of those accusations were false and that he remembered others differently than his accusers did. He said he’d depart in a few weeks.
© 2017 The Canadian Press