UPDATE AT 3:41 P.M. EASTERN — Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has immediately resigned, instead of staying until the end of January, as previously stated. According to the Associated Press, Franks made the new announcement Friday afternoon after his wife was just admitted to the hospital for "an ongoing ailment."
Of all the public figures who are stepping down amidst misconduct accusations, evangelical conservative Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) explanation for why is one of the most bizarre. It’s leaving people wondering why he would be asked to resign over something so small and whether the wording of his explanation actually suggests something more serious.
On Thursday, Franks released a statement saying that he was leaving office by the end of January because of a misconduct claim and a desire to not have the incident blown out of proportion by the media at the expense of his family. Rather than being the subject of a planned House Ethics investigation and having a “sensationalized trial” and “distorted and sensationalized versions of this story” bring damage to his loved ones, Franks says he’s stepping down.
House Speaker Paul Ryan found the accusations against Franks very troubling, according to CNN, and had his office send out a statement, saying, "Last Wednesday, the speaker was briefed on credible claims of misconduct by Rep. Trent Franks. He found the allegations to be serious and requiring action. The next day, the speaker presented Rep. Franks with the allegations, which he did not deny. ... The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House."
So what did Franks allegedly do? It’s not entirely clear from his own explanation. We’ll let you decide.
In his resignation statement, Franks talked about how he and his wife had successfully and unsuccessfully used surrogates in the past to have children when it became apparent that he and his wife could not bear any of their own. He made it clear that he only used pro-life methods in doing so.
However, Franks admits that his familiarity with the surrogacy process made him “insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others” when talking about it in the workplace.
"I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,” Franks wrote.
He says he didn’t know it caused his female subordinates so much distress until he found out later. What’s missing, though, is the nature of that discussion.
On the surface, it seems from Franks’ words that he was talking to two women about the details of the surrogacy process and probably gave too much information. While that’s certainly a problem, it hardly seems cause for an ethics investigation or resignation.
CNN, along with many other media outlets quick to accuse Franks of something worse, wondered aloud if Franks was actually asking the two women who work for him to be surrogates for him and his wife. If true, that’s more serious.
Is this just a witch hunt to oust a strong conservative and pro-life advocate, or do you think there is a good reason for Franks to resign? Read his full statement below and let us know:
"I always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office. It is my deepest conviction that there are many staffers, former and present, who would readily volunteer to substantiate this fact.
"Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.
"However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.
"My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced miscarriages.
"We pursued adoption on more than one occasion only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth.
"A wonderful and loving lady, to whom we will be forever grateful, acted as a gestational surrogate for our twins and was able to carry them successfully to live birth. The process by which they were conceived was a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos.
"My son and daughter are unspeakable gifts of God that have brought us our greatest earthly happiness in the 37 years we have been married.
"When our twins were approximately 3 years old, we made a second attempt with a second surrogate who was also not genetically related to the child. Sadly, that pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage.
"Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.
"I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.
"We are in an unusual moment in history — there is a collective focus on the very important problem of justice and sexual impropriety. It is so important that we get this right for everyone, especially for victims.
"But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced that I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018. It is with the greatest sadness, for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting. I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made. My time in Congress serving my constituents, America and the Constitution is and will remain one of God's greatest gift [sic] to me in life."
What do you think? In other news, Roy Moore's key accuser has admitted that she altered the yearbook that she's using as evidence against him.