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Rep. Blake Farenthold, under fire for sexual harassment allegations, resigns

Sexual harassment in Congress

Rep. Blake Farenthold, the Texas Republican under scrutiny for using $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim, officially resigned on Friday. Farenthold had already announced he wouldn't run for reelection, after initially saying he would run.

His resignation became effective 5 p.m. Friday.

"While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it's time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve," Farenthold said in a statement. 

Farenthold had said he would repay the $84,000, but there is no record or claim that he has done so yet. Farenthold has been the subject of a House Ethics Committee review. That review was launched after a report that former Farenthold communications director Lauren Greene received an $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement after suing the congressman in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. 

Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, urged Farenthold to repay the funds.

"Mr. Farenthold made a commitment that he would reimburse taxpayers for the settlement. He reiterated his commitment to the speaker and the speaker expects him to follow through," said AshLee Strong, Ryan's spokeswoman. 

Farenthold has denied the sexual harassment allegations against him.

"I want to be perfectly clear. The charges that were made are false," he said in a statement posted to Facebook in December. Farenthold did admit he "allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional."

Another former senior aide to Farenthold came forward to the House Ethics Committee in December, describing his behavior in an interview with CNN at the time. Michael Rekola worked as Farenthold's communications director in 2015, and in that time he said the congressman's sexual jokes and treatment of aides amounted to bullying that led him to treat medical and psychological help. 

Rekola's description appears to paint a hostile work environment. The former staffer told CNN the congressman regularly described aides with an expletive and would break into screaming fits of rage, slamming his fists on desks. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to make any announcements about a special election to replace Farenthold. 

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