Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., announced his resignation Thursday evening after it was revealed that the House Ethics Committee would be investigating accusations of sexual harassment against him.
Franks explained that he and his wife cannot have children, and that he has two children through a surrogate mother. He said he discussed surrogacy with two of his staffers, which made them uncomfortable.
While some reports said Franks asked the two female staffers to become surrogate mothers for him, Franks' statement was not that explicit, and said only that he discussed surrogacy with them.
"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," he said.
"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," Franks added. "I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."
Franks also stressed that he never made inappropriate sexual advances to any of his staff.
"Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear," he said. "I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff."
Still, he said resignation would be better for his family than going through an ethics investigation.
“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,” Franks said. “It is with the greatest sadness, that for the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting.”
The ethics panel voted unanimously to establish the probe into Franks' behavior.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., revealed in a statement that he was informed of the claims last week. Franks did not deny them when confronted by Ryan.
“The speaker told Rep. Franks that he intended to refer the allegations directly to the House Ethics Committee and told him that he should resign from Congress," a statement from the Speaker's office said. "The allegations were filed with the Ethics Committee last Friday. And today, the speaker accepted a letter of resignation. The speaker takes seriously his obligation to ensure a safe workplace in the House.”
Because Franks’ resignation comes more than six months ahead of the general election, Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., will call a special election to fill the position.
Earlier Thursday, it was widely reported that Franks would be stepping down, following an initial report from Roll Call. At the time, Franks did not acknowledge whether he planned to resign or not, but simply said the “statement will explain.”
An anonymous Arizona Republican said there had been discussion that Franks exhibited inappropriate behavior. The source noted that Franks was interested in running for the Senate in 2012 but suddenly stopped pursuing a Senate run.
“There’s been rumors swirling around him for years, at least in 2012,” the Republican told Roll Call. “And if this turns out to be true there won’t be that many people who are surprised.”
Separately, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned Thursday amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
"Today, I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said.
"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true," he said. "Others I remember very differently."
Additionally, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., announced Tuesday his immediate retirement amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Conyers admitted to a settlement but denied the allegations of sexual impropriety.