As we reported yesterday, Trent Franks is resigning for discussions he had with his staff regarding surrogacy. There are no charges, however, of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct being leveled at Franks.
According to ABC News, Paul Ryan is forcing Franks out:
House Speaker Paul Ryan first demanded Franks resign last Thursday, on Nov. 30, after one of his aides was contacted with information about “troubling behavior” Franks directed at a former staffer.
After the speaker’s general counsel interviewed the former staffer, and validated misconduct against a second aide, Ryan was briefed and soon presented the claims to Franks. The speaker then filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee on Friday, according to his office.
Franks, who admitted to having the discussions of surrogacy with his staffers, also said this in his statement:
“I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks explained. “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.”
Surrogacy is probably is an awkward discussion to have with a staffer, but it doesn’t necessarily imply misconduct. While it’s true we don’t know exactly what was said, surrogacy in of itself is just the process where a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person, and it’s normally done via artificial insemination.
Again, totally awkward I’m sure, but not sexual harassment.
Franks explained his situation further:
“My wife and I have long struggled with infertility. We experienced three 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 miscarriage.
“We continued to have a desire to have at least one additional sibling, for which our children had made repeated requests.
“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.
Assuming all of this true and I have no reason to doubt it, it seems to be me that Paul Ryan totally overreacted in forcing Franks to resign over this. Yes, I’m sure it did make these two staffers uncomfortable. It’s an extremely personal and yes, uncomfortable discussion to have with anyone, let alone someone who works for you.
But forcing him out? There must’ve been better ways to deal with this.
Perhaps this is just my cynicism speaking, but it almost sounds like Ryan took advantage of a difficult situation and used it to force a Freedom Caucus conservative out of the House.
Here’s a bit more from the AP:
A former aide to Republican Rep. Trent Franks has told The Associated Press the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate.
The eight-term Arizona lawmaker abruptly resigned Friday, bowing to an ultimatum from Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan told Franks that he would refer the allegations to the Ethics Committee, and urged him to step aside.
The former staffer said the congressman asked at least four times if she’d be willing to act as a surrogate in exchange for money. Franks, in his statement announcing his resignation, said he and his wife have struggled with infertility.
The Associated Press verified the identity of the staffer, who asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her privacy, and confirmed that she worked in Franks’ office.
We’re still missing details. Did she say NO each time? Or did she want to think about it? Was he trying to push her into something she didn’t want to do? This makes it sound like he was badgering her, but at the same time he was offering her a huge payday for her surrogacy.
I think we need more details before we can conclude it was harassment.