When the news broke tonight that Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) would be announcing his resignation today with no prior warning and no cause specified beyond “inappropriate behavior,” most political observers’ minds immediately leapt to the assumption that the House Freedom Caucus member was the latest political figure to become embroiled in a sex scandal.
But now Franks has spoken, and it appears this scandal is about something entirely different.
The Hill reports that Franks is stepping down because the House Ethics Committee is investigating whether he engaged in a form of harassment by raising the topic of being a pregnancy surrogate with two female staffers, who were made uncomfortable by the conversation.
Franks and his wife have struggled with infertility and currently have two children via a surrogate mother, and Franks was exploring the possibility of giving the twins one more sibling:
“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,” Franks said in a statement.
“We are in an unusual moment in history — there is collective focus on a 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 I would be unable to complete a fir House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would be put, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation.”
Franks’ full statement can be read by clicking here.
Here is the House Ethics Committee’s statement on the matter:
Minutes after news breaks that @RepTrentFranks is resigning, House Ethics Committee announces it will investigate him to determine if he engaged in “conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment” pic.twitter.com/XiCdltoGFV
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 7, 2017
Obviously, a clear understanding of this story would depend on what exactly Franks said to these women and whether there are any additional shoes to drop, neither of which we can know at this point.
But based on the currently-available information, we can say both that asking female subordinates to bear a child for you is clearly inappropriate … and that even so, resignation seems like a rather extreme step for what we’re being told are purely instances of insensitivity. Which will understandably keep alive suspicions that there’s more to the story.
Do you think Franks should have resigned? What do you predict we’ll learn next? Might he make a comeback in the future? And will Arizona’s replacement of him go more smoothly than Alabama’s current troubles filling Jeff Sessions’ old seat? Let us know what you think in the comments below.