Texas congressman apologizes for circulation of nude photo

FILE - In this April 1, 2014, file photo, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, questions David Friedman, the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during his testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. 

Evan Vucci / AP

Last Updated Nov 23, 2017 12:52 AM EST

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, released an apology Wednesday for a nude photo of him that circulated around the internet this week.

"While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women," Barton said in a statement to CBS News. "Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down."

An anonymous Twitter account posted the photo, but it's not known how it acquired the photo of Barton.

The woman who received the text from Barton also recorded a phone conversation with the Texas lawmaker, in which he threatens to call the Capitol Hill Police about her, ostensibly to protect his privacy. She revealed the call to the Washington Post Wednesday. 

"I want your word that this ends," he said, according to the recording published by the Post. "I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don't want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time."

The woman then asked Barton what he would tell the police.

"I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn't like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career," he said, according to the Post. "That's the truth."

The Post reported that the woman had encounters and contact with Barton over a 5-year period beginning in 2011.

In a statement late Wednesday, Barton told the Post that a transcript of the recording may be "evidence" of a "potential crime against me."

Although this comes as Congress is grappling with accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment against Sen. Al Franken, Michigan Rep. John Conyers and Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, Barton's case appears to differ in that this may have involved a consensual relationship. Barton may be a victim, in that Texas has a law against "revenge porn," that is, the posting of sexually explicit images online without an individual's consent. A conviction could result in a $4,000 fine and one-year jail sentence.

While Barton announced this month that he plans to run for re-election, he told the Texas Tribune he is now reconsidering. When asked if he plans to step down, a spokesperson for Barton told CBS that "Joe Barton is not resigning."

Barton, Texas's longest-serving Congressman, joined the House in 1985 and previously served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee.

  • Blair Guild On Twitter»

    Blair Guild is a politics reporter and video producer for CBS News Digital.