WASHINGTON ― Four months after abruptly quitting Congress amid a sexual harassment scandal, former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) still doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
In fact, the former GOP lawmaker says he “took a bullet for the team” by resigning. He insists he’s right not to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money he spent on a sexual harassment settlement. He ripped the House Ethics Committee for not caring about facts. And he blames “f-tards” and the Me Too movement for driving him out of a job.
Yeah, it’s a lot. And that’s just a sample of Farenthold’s comments in an Aug. 1 deposition he gave in a lawsuit over his new job at a Texas port authority. The Victoria Advocate, a local newspaper, sued the port authority in May for not giving required public notice that it was hiring Farenthold and creating a $160,000-a-year lobbyist job for him.
HuffPost obtained a transcript of Farenthold’s deposition, along with copies of his texts and emails submitted for the lawsuit. What’s clear is that he blames everyone but himself for his downfall and that his reasons for not repaying the $84,000 are bonkers. You can read 79 pages of his deposition yourself, here, or just read below for the bits we thought were particularly bananas.
It would be illegal to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money?
Farenthold claims he would be breaking the law if he repaid the taxpayer money he spent to settle a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit by a former aide, Lauren Greene, who alleged he told her she could “show her nipples” and that he had “wet dreams” about her. When the lawsuit became public in December, Farenthold promised to repay the money immediately. He later changed his mind.
Here’s the attorney for the Victoria Advocate, John Griffin, asking him why he didn’t pay it back. The highlighted bits are from HuffPost.
It’s not clear why Farenthold said it would be illegal to repay taxpayers. A top House Republican aide confirmed that this is nonsense.
“Yup. Anyone can donate money to Treasury,” said this aide.
He can’t donate $84,000 to a nonprofit that combats sexual harassment.
Farenthold, who is worth millions of dollars, once said he would donate $84,000 to a charity focused on sexual harassment. Now he says he won’t do that because there’s a bill in Congress targeting sexual harassment by lawmakers that would potentially authorize the government to take the $84,000 from his retirement plan. He doesn’t want to risk paying that amount twice.
He’s right that there is legislation in Congress that would crack down on sexual harassment by lawmakers. But the House and Senate have vastly different bills, and the issue has stalled out as they fail to reach a compromise.
More notably, while each bill has a provision relating to the government pulling from a lawmaker’s retirement account or Social Security if they spend taxpayer money on a sexual harassment settlement, the provision is not retroactive.
In other words, these bills have no bearing on Farenthold and there is no reason he could not donate $84,000 to a nonprofit targeting sexual harassment.
He blames the House Ethics Committee for disregarding facts.
Farenthold quit Congress days before the House Ethics Committee was set to announce its conclusion of a months-long investigation into four alleged violations by his office, one of which was more sexual harassment. The panel gave its required notice to Farenthold that it was going to announce a violation, which he concedes was part of the reason why he quit so abruptly. By quitting, he prevented the panel from announcing anything.
Asked about the committee’s probe, which involved the creation of a subcommittee to look into all the allegations of wrongdoing, Farenthold dismissed the whole thing as a political witch hunt.
The committee, of course, was not pleased that Farenthold prevented it from releasing its findings. The chairwoman and ranking member issued a scathing statement after he resigned, urging him “in the strongest possible terms” to repay the $84,000.
He blames “f-tards” for his downfall and, helpfully, defines “f-tard.”
Farenthold announced his resignation on April 6, and a friend, Matt Woolbright, texted him to say he was sorry to hear the news. Farenthold responded, “The f tards won.”
What does “f-tard” mean and who is he talking about?
Farenthold says in his deposition that he was referring to people in the media and that it means they are all A-S-S-E-S.
He blames the Me Too movement for warping the minds of his colleagues.
Farenthold says the Me Too movement blinded members of the House Ethics Committee, leaving them unable to separate facts from politics and therefore with no choice but to announce ethical violations in his office.
He bemoans the “deep state” and “fake news.” But who are they?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was furious when Farenthold resigned and demanded that he repay the $84,000 and cover the costs of the special election to fill his seat. Farenthold wrote to Abbott in early May saying no, but that he wanted to stay in public service because of the “deep state” ― a conspiracy theory about people deeply embedded in the government trying to delegitimize President Donald Trump ― and “fake news.”
Asked during his deposition what exactly he was referring to in both of those references, Farenthold couldn’t say.
P.S. You were a real pain in my ass, Mia Love.
Farenthold complains a lot about his party turning on him ― “we leave our wounded on the playing field” ― but names one colleague in particular: Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), who he says threatened to call on him to resign if he didn’t repay the $84,000.
A Love spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on whether the congresswoman was upset by Farenthold’s criticism or proud.