Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced Thursday night that he will step down from Congress because he made two female staffers “uncomfortable” by approaching them about bearing a child for him and his wife.
Rumors began to swirl earlier in the day that the hardline Arizona Republican was prepping to resign amid allegations of “inappropriate behavior.” In a statement issued by his office, Franks denied ever engaging in sexual misconduct but confirmed that he will vacate his seat by Jan. 31.
“I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks, 60, said in the statement.
Instead, Franks claimed he’s resigning because he’s “deeply convinced” that an ethics investigation would put a “distorted and sensationalized” spin on the times he asked two female staffers about serving as maternal surrogates for his wife.
“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 said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”
Franks, who is considered one of the most aggressive anti-abortion lawmakers in Congress, said that he might have gotten desensitized to the intimate nature of surrogacy.
“My wife and I have long struggled with infertility,” he said. “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.”
The House Ethics Committee announced earlier Thursday that it would investigate Franks over behavior that “constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.” Franks’ resignation effectively ends the ethics probe.
Politicians accused of sexual harassment or assault
Franks claimed that his resignation will prevent a “sensationalized trial by media.”
“For the sake of the causes I deeply love, I must now step back from the battle I have spent over three decades fighting,” he said. “I hope my resignation will remain distinct from the great gains we have made.”
The conservative lawmaker caused an uproar in 2013 while defending his Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’s lack of exceptions for rape or incest.
“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy (is) very low,” he said during a committee debate.
Recently, Franks, a fervent supporter of President Trump, has called on special counsel Robert Mueller to resign.
In an editorial published by USA Today last month, Franks argued that recent indictments coming out of Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election make it “even clearer that the investigation is compromised.”
Franks’ resignation came just hours after Democratic Sen. Al Franken stepped down amid allegations that he sexually harassed several women.