Duck pajamas, a goofy grin and his arm slung around a lingerie model was just the start. The end for Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) resulted from accusations from staffers — male and female — of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Farenthold won't run for reelection next year after former staffers accused him of sexual harassment and creating a hostile, sexually charged work environment. He is under a House Ethics Committee investigation for his behavior involving a former communications staffer, with whom he settled a sexual harassment complaint in 2014.
It looks like Republican leaders used this as leverage to push him out.
— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) December 14, 2017
Farenthold is no stranger to sex-related scandals, and he's long been a thorn in the side of Republican leadership for it. But, remarkably, he has stayed in Congress for the past seven years. It took the nation's current reckoning with sexual harassment to bring him down. Here are the other sexual scandals that Farenthold has survived:
2010: A pajama party
In 2010, as Farenthold was first running for Congress, a photo surfaced of him wearing blue-and-yellow duck-printed pajamas, his arm slung around a blond waitress wearing lingerie, and a big grin on his face. The picture was from a costume party roughly a year before the election. He was then a conservative radio host about to challenge a sitting Democrat.
Farenthold's Democratic opponent immediately used the photo in an ad: “Your next congressman?” it asked incredulously. But Farenthold's opponent may have misstepped: He mischaracterized the photo as an “S&M party.” (It was a fundraiser for a friend of Farenthold's, according to the Houston Chronicle.)
In the end, the photo may have helped raise Farenthold's profile. Farenthold won the Corpus Christi-area district by just 799 votes, one of the most surprising wins of a very good year for Republicans, and he hasn't had a close election since.
In 2014, BuzzFeed discovered this: “The website Blow-me.org is registered to Republican Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, according to an Internet registration page.”
His office said it was just one of many websites Farenthold snatched up when he owned a Web design consulting firm, but it gave no explanation for why a company would need to register something like this.
“The domain name has never been used, and Mr. Farenthold has no intention to renew it,” his office said.
2014: “Sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” and “redhead patrol”
Just a couple days after blow-me.org came to light, a fired former communications director in Farenthold's office sued him, accusing him of sexual harassment. In the lawsuit, she shared some explicit comments that she says the congressman repeatedly made to her.
[Lauren Greene alleged the congressman] “regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘red head patrol’ to keep him out of trouble.”
She also says that Farenthold seemed to avoid her at work, which she brought up with his executive assistant, Emily Wilkes. Greene alleges that Wilkes told her “that Farenthold had admitted to being attracted to plaintiff and to having ‘sexual fantasies’ and ‘wet dreams’ about plaintiff.”
Farenthold denied the allegations in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: “I was surprised,” he said. “I didn't imagine us having any problems in the office. And the things she alleges are just so far out in left field. I'm just stunned.”
He ended up settling with Greene for $84,000, money that we later learned came out of a secret taxpayer fund for these sorts of allegations. The House's quasi-independent Ethics Committee investigated the allegations, too, but found they were unsubstantiated.
Three years later, with the #MeToo movement being celebrated on the covers of magazines, Farenthold was singled out as one of the members of Congress whose taxpayer money went to settle a sexual harassment complaint.
Farenthold said he would be reimbursing taxpayers for that money. “I didn't do anything wrong,” he told local Texas television station KRISTV.com
But his problems weren't over.
2015: Allegedly calling his aides crude names and commenting on their sex lives
On Wednesday night, the end came for Farenthold. CNN reported that another former staffer — this one a man — told the House Ethics Committee that Farenthold had verbally abused and said sexually demeaning things to him.
“Better have your fiancee blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time,” former staffer Michael Rekola says Farenthold told him right before Rekola's wedding. CNN reports Rekola quit soon after.
Rekola and other staffers also told CNN that Farenthold was prone to outbursts, pounding his fists on the table and berating his staff as “f**ktards.”
Farenthold didn't deny making those comments, but he tried to downplay them — as he often had every time a sex scandal came up — as something done “in jest.”
Twelve hours later, Farenthold announced his retirement. GOP leaders didn't seem too torn up about it.