House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for a “prompt” House ethics investigation into Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) on Saturday, following reports of allegations that he sexually abused a 16-year-old girl in 2006. Cárdenas has vehemently denied the allegations through his attorney.
“I have spoken with Congressman Cárdenas and he appropriately asked us to withhold judgment until there is a full investigation of the facts,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As Members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives, and any type of alleged misconduct must be investigated by the Ethics Committee. Congressman Cárdenas said he will fully cooperate with an ethics investigation.
Cárdenas identified himself in recent days as the subject of a lawsuit in Los Angeles County.
“My client is sickened and distraught by these horrific allegations, which are 100%, categorically untrue,” Patricia Glaser said Thursday in a statement on Cárdenas’s behalf.
“We respect victims who have found the strength to come forward and call out misconduct when it has actually occurred, but the type of baseless and reckless allegations that are contained in the complaint against my client can ruin the lives and careers of innocent people,” Glaser said.
Politicians in and around Cárdenas’s district, which is safely Democratic — Hillary Clinton carried it with 77.7 percent of the vote in 2016 — had largely been quiet about the allegations. The congressman’s Democratic primary opponent called on him to resign, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters that voters needed to let the story “play out.” Benny Bernal, the district’s Republican candidate, made no statement about the allegations.
Cárdenas has been calling colleagues in recent days about the lawsuit and telling them he is innocent, according to a House Democratic aide. The three-term congressman is the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee.
Two other House Democratic aides confirmed that Cárdenas has been contacting colleagues about the lawsuit. Filed April 27, it did not identify him because under California law, the names of defendants in child-sex-abuse cases cannot be disclosed without court approval.
The court filing, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, alleges that “John Doe” met the plaintiff in 2005 at a golf tournament when she was 14 and subsequently became a close friend of her family’s. Two years later, the document claims, he fondled her breasts and genitals while driving her to an emergency room after the two played golf at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.
The girl had “suddenly collapsed to the ground” during the golf game after John Doe gave her a cup of ice water that “tasted distinctly different from both tap and filtered water,” the lawsuit states.
The suit claims the actions constituted childhood sexual abuse under California law because she was under 18 at the time. The plaintiff asked for unspecified damages and a jury trial.
Glaser, in her statement, said that Cárdenas has an “exemplary record in more than 20 years of public service” and that the plaintiff is the “daughter of a disgruntled former employee and may be the victim of manipulation.”
“The congressman expects complete exoneration, as he is 100% innocent,” she said.
Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck contributed.