Report: Some GOP congressmen chided for booze, nudity during swim in Israel
Updated at 12:01 p.m. ET with clarification on the FBI investigation.
(CBS News) Shortly after the contentious debt ceiling debate last year, nearly one in five congressmen took off for week-long informational trips during their summer recess, most of which were paid for by a pro-Israel lobbying group. The relief from escaping the toxic air of Washington, D.C., last summer may have been overwhelming for some of the lawmakers.
Politico reported that a late-night dip in the Sea of Galilee near the Israeli city of Tiberias by several GOP freshmen lawmakers and top leadership staff during that trip led to an FBI probe after reports of drinking and even a bit of nudity surfaced. Federal officials told CBS News that there is an FBI investigation into public corruption, but the skinny-dipping incident cited in the report is ancillary to the larger probe. Those officials also said that Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., - who was named in the Politico report - is not the subject of the federal investigation.
Yoder took off his clothes for the swim, Politico reports, and some of the other lawmakers partially disrobed, even though families - including one congressman's daughter - were also apparently swimming at the same time. Sources told Politico more than 20 people in total took part in the late-night swim.
In a statement to Politico, Yoder said: "A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit. It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize."
Politico reports the other lawmakers who went swimming that night were: Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and his wife; Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz.; Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.; and Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.
The reasons lawmakers gave Politico for the swim varied: Some said it was a religious experience (the Bible says the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water); others said they wanted to cool off; and still others admitted alcohol may have guided their decision.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who did not swim that night, allegedly scolded the group after learning about the evening, Politico reports, because it was distracting from the mission of their trip. The FBI probe allegedly ended after a few questions about what happened that night were answered by a Cantor staffer.
American lawmakers from both parties frequently make summer excursions to Israel on trips funded by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is a supporting organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The trips are designed to promote the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and they also bring the politicians to the most-sacred sites of both Judaism and Christianity.