GOP Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold won't seek re-election

Aide complained of emotional, physical distress

By DEIRDRE WALSH AND MJ LEE, CNN

Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold promised to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money he used to settle claims of sexual harassment and other improper conduct by a former aide. 

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Blake Farenthold, who's under fire for accusations of sexual harassment, is not planning to run for re-election, he said in a video Thursday.

"I'd never served in office before. I had no idea how to run a congressional office. And as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional," the Texas Republican said in the video published Thursday afternoon. "I understand fully that this issue has become a political distraction and I would be forced to engage in a monthlong campaign for personal vindication. Quite simply, my constituents deserve better. Therefore I'm announcing my decision not to run for re-election."

Farenthold acknowledged previous reports about the inappropriate culture of his office and apologized.

"It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional," he said. "And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with the respect they deserved. That was wrong."

He continued: "I'm profoundly sorry."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, spoke with Farenthold twice late Wednesday. Rep. Steve Stivers, the Ohio Republican who chairs the House campaign arm, also met with Farenthold.

"Look, I had a couple of conversations with Blake Farenthold," Ryan said at his weekly news conference. "I think he's making the right decision to retire. There are new stories that are disconcerting. Unacceptable behavior has been alleged in those stories. And I think he's made the right decision that he's leaving Congress. And that reflects on the conversations we've had."

The news that Farenthold won't seek re-election follows a CNN report Wednesday that a former senior aide to the congressman has approached the House Ethics Committee to share a damning account of working for Farenthold, with the intent of describing the congressman as verbally abusive and sexually demeaning -- and his congressional office as an intensely hostile environment that drove the aide to physical and emotional distress.

The Ethics Committee was already investigating Farenthold for investigating sexual harassment allegations made by his former aide, Lauren Greene. The congressman has previously denied any wrongdoing in the Greene case and on Wednesday denied some of the accusations the former aide made to CNN, though Farenthold also said some of the language he used was not appropriate.

Like all members of the House of Representatives, Farenthold's term end every two years, so his plans to retire mean he could be in office until January 2019.

This story has been updated and will continue to update with additional developments.

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