Embattled Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, thinks his "constituents deserve better" than the way he's conducted himself, but won't leave office until the end of his current term.
In announcing his retirement from Congress, Farenthold continued to deny the allegations of sexual harassment made against him in a 2014 lawsuit, but admitted to fostering an "unprofessional work environment," which the congressman was also sure to note "is not a crime."
A former female employee accused Farenthold of repeated sexual harassment in a 2014 lawsuit, depicting him as more of a creepy fraternity brother than an elected official. You can read a breakdown of those allegations here. Farenthold reportedly settled the suit with $84,000 of taxpayer money, but the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics decided by a vote of six to zero to dismiss the allegations in 2015.
After the settlement amount was made public in recent weeks, however, the Ethics Committee relaunched its investigation, and calls for Farenthold to resign mounted, even reportedly from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Accounts shared by former Farenthold staffers seemed to confirm at the very least the congressman himself created a crude, sexually-charged environment in his office. Indeed, he finally admitted as much in a Facebook video published Thursday.
Here is the most relevant portion of Farenthold's retirement announcement:
I'd never served in public office before. I had no idea how to run a congressional office, and as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional. It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes, and behavior that in general was less than professional. And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with the respect they deserve.
"It's not how I was raised, it's not who I am, and for that situation I am profoundly sorry," Farenthold added.
In addition to offering his profoundest apologies, Farenthold said the environment he created was "embarrassing" to himself and to his family, and conceded that his constituents "deserve better."
So why is the congressman making them settle for less until after 2018?
The allegations against Farenthold do not begin to approach the severity of those made against other powerful men in recent days, many of whom stand accused of sexual assault and rape. In this moment of panic, it's absolutely important to set careful precedents that ensure consequences are applied in proportion to the matter at hand.
But if Farenthold himself is sincere in recognizing that his conduct warrants such a profound apology, constitutes an embarrassment to his family, and is not worthy of his constituents, why should he stay in office — and why should taxpayers continue to pay his salary?