One of the freshmen Republican lawmakers tied to a night of drinking and swimming during a trip to Israel last year says he didn’t do or see anything inappropriate when he waded into the Sea of Galilee.
Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) — who faces a competitive primary next week — said his visit to the lake where biblical scripture says Jesus Christ walked on water came at the end of a long day of meetings and travel with his congressional colleagues and his wife.
After eating dinner with his wife, Quayle told Fox News Channel on Tuesday, the couple realized that an after-dinner stop at the water would be their only opportunity to see it.
“I was able to go in, properly attired … and swim very briefly in the Sea of Galilee and actually was able to take a little vial of water home to baptize my daughter with water from the Sea of Galilee,” Quayle said on Fox.
Asked whether he had been drinking, Quayle said he had “a glass of wine” and added that “there was no inappropriate or unusual behavior that I saw.”
“I was in the water for 30 seconds at most,” he said later.
Quayle’s opponent, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), said Monday that he was “disappointed, but not surprised, given Congressman Quayle’s history.” A campaign spokesman said Schweikert was referring to Quayle’s admission two years ago that he once used a pseudonym while writing for an adult-themed Web site.
Asked about Schweikert’s comments on Fox, Quayle called his opponent “a professional liar.”
House Republican leaders reprimanded 30 lawmakers last August for antics including drinking and skinny-dipping during the fact-finding trip to Israel. Details were first reported Sunday by Politico.
The trip to Israel, funded by the American Israel Educational Foundation, ran from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, 2011, and included lectures, tours of religious sites and meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and other political figures, according to an itinerary provided Monday by AIEF. The group has hosted the biennial trips for lawmakers, staffers and spouses for several years.
In a statement released late Monday, Quayle called the trip to Israel “not only an amazing experience for my wife and I, but extremely significant to our Christian faith.” In the statement, Quayle said he “had retired to my hotel room with my wife before the described misconduct occurred.”
But Quayle also went after Schweikert in his statement for raising concerns about the Israel trip “a week before our primary,” especially if he had known about them as a member of Congress for more than a year.
“The mask is off and Dave Schweikert has revealed himself as exactly the low and dishonest career politician the public has come to loathe,” Quayle said. “Voters will see right through this deception and join Senator Kyl and Senator McCain in condemning Dishonest Dave for his sleazy and fraudulent campaign.”
Yup — in case you didn’t know or already couldn’t tell, the Quayle-Schweikert matchup is one of the nastiest member vs. member primaries of the year.
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This post has been updated since it was first published.