Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) said in a new interview that he will pay back the taxpayer money that he used to a settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former staffer.
News outlets first reported Friday that Farenthold used $84,000 of taxpayer funds to settle a lawsuit that his former communications director, Lauren Greene, filed against him in 2014. Greene alleged that her former boss engaged in gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and created a hostile work environment.
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Farenthold told KRIS 6 News in an interview published Monday that he will pay back the government for the taxpayer dollars he spent on the case.
"Even though I was completely exonerated by OCE [the Office of Congressional Ethics] and the settlement agreement has been paid, I'm doing my best and am going to hand a check over this week, to probably [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan or somebody, and say, ‘Look, here's the amount of my settlement. Give it back to the taxpayers,'" Farenthold said.
"I want to be clear that I didn't do anything wrong, but I also don't want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this," the Texas congressman continued. "I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying, ‘Blake, you benefitted from the system; you don't have a right to talk about it or fix it.'"
Farenthold said that he will take out a personal loan to cover the cost of reimbursing taxpayers for the settlement payment, though he maintains his innocence.
Farenthold also said that he wanted to speak about the matter sooner but was not allowed to do so.
"I wish I could have said something Friday … I went to the House lawyer and said, ‘What can I say?' and they said, ‘Nothing … Here's the statement that you can make,'" Farenthold said, adding that he only spoke about the case after seeking a second opinion from another lawyer, who gave him permission to discuss the matter.