The campaign of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) on Monday denied an earlier report that he had been involved in a controversial incident in which House Republicans swam in the Sea of Galilee, the lake in Israel where Jesus is said to have walked on water.
On Sunday, Politico reported that a group of GOP officials and congressmen, including Quayle, had taken a late-night dip in the religious site's waters while on a junket last summer. Alcohol may have played a part in their decision, and one of the lawmakers, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), swam naked and has since apologized for the "embarrassing situation," as he put it. The episode reportedly drew a round of FBI interviews and an angry reprimand from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but no official charges.
Following the report, Jay Heiler, a Quayle campaign spokesman, said that the congressman did enter the water while on the trip, but not as part of the reported group. He claimed Quayle had never been contacted by the FBI, and that reports of the lawmaker's involvement in the controversy amounted to a "horrible injustice."
"A bunch of people went swimming at different points in the evening," Heiler told the Arizona Republic. "Ben went swimming for less than 30 seconds and not as part of a large group of people, and not in the presence of Mr. Yoder. Any of that that happened, happened later after he and [his wife] Tiffany were gone."
Heiler told the Republic that Quayle had drank only one glass of wine with his dinner, and that his wife, who was pregnant at the time, didn't drink at all. According to Heiler, Quayle has also maintained that he didn't see his congressional colleagues engaging in heavy drinking either.
The office of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), another lawmaker implicated in the Politico report, also offered a denial on Monday.
“Tom was not part of this incident that occurred on August 18, 2011," his staff said in a statement. "In fact, he did not even take part in the dinner that preceded the incident, choosing instead to join with a few others to eat at a McDonald's near the Sea of Galilee."