Arizona Republican representative Trent Franks announced he would resign today, instead of next year, after more detail was revealed about his improper advances to female staff.
In a case eerily evocative of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the conservative Christian politician has been accused of repeatedly trying to persuade his own employees to serve as surrogate mothers, given his wife’s difficulty to conceive children. One former aide says he offered $5 million dollars for the service, according to AP.
Politico reports that “the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization.” Franks is a strong opponent of both abortion rights, and of procedures that discard embryos, which includes in-vitro fertilization.
Politico’s report includes other unsettling claims about Franks’s conduct around women working with him, including the allegation that “Franks 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.”
Franks acknowledged making employees feel uncomfortable but refuted the nature of the allegations, even while resigning. Yesterday, he issued a written statement to the Washington Times and on Twitter, which read in part:
I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.
We are in an unusual moment in history – there is collective focus on a very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims.
But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, 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. It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting.
Franks also said he had discussed his difficulty having children while at work, but added that he had “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”