In a rare case of a male Congressional staffer coming forward with accounts of sexual harassment and offensive behavior from their male employer, a former senior aide to Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX), the man who reportedly used $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim, has revealed new details of the hostile work environment that Farenthold’s staff were forced to endure.
Michael Rekola, the former communications director for the Congressman, has offered to present the House Ethics Committee with an inside view of the “verbally abusive and sexually demeaning” behavior by Rep. Farenthold towards his staff that led to “physical and emotional distress.”
In an interview with CNN, Rekola detailed a litany of abusive incidents, ranging from “making sexually graphic jokes to berating aides”. One particularly crude remark occurred as Rekola was leaving the office for his wedding when Farenthold told his communications director in front of the rest of the staff:
“Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.”
The Congressman went on to joke about whether Rekola’s now-wife should wear white on her wedding day, implying that premarital sex should preclude her from doing so. Rekola says that the comment left him disgusted and led to his resignation immediately upon returning to the office after his wedding.
Besides the lewd sexual comments that Farenthold was prone to blurt out, the Congressman also has apparently said things that would indicate that he has some severe anger issues to deal with.
His favorite sobriquet for his aides was “f*cktard” according to another staff member, and Rekola was so stressed out by the hostile working environment that he regularly suffered from severe anxiety and chronic stomach pain.
“Every time he didn’t like something, he would call me a f*cktard or idiot. He would slam his fist down in rage and explode in anger,” Rekola said. “He was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn’t find a way to control it.”
With the House Ethics Committee already investigating Fahrenthold due to allegations of sexual harassment by another former aide, Rekola has written to Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN), the chairwoman of the Ethics panel, offering to give the committee “examples of sexually inappropriate comments” that Farenthold made, and speak about the congressman’s “emotionally damaging” and “intimidating” actions, including lewd comments remarking on the size of the breasts and buttocks of female reporters and lobbyists.
Farenthold also reportedly had an affinity for ginger-haired women, leading to jokes about being on “redhead patrol”.
Despite the recent resignations by Senator AL Franken (D-MN), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) due to inappropriate behavior, Republican leaders in the House have not been clamoring for Farenhold to leave office, even with the large sums of money that he’s taken from government funds to settle the claims against him.
Hopefully, Mr. Rekola’s testimony will help force the issue and lead to Rep. Farenthold’s departure from Congress in the cloud of shame he deserves, if only half of what his former staffers say is true.
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