Kentucky House speaker steps down after sexual harassment allegations
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover resigned from his position Sunday amid sexual harassment allegations, saying he had made “mistakes.”
Hoover, who The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville reported had secretly settled a sexual harassment allegation by a woman on his legislative staff, did not resign as a state representative, however, and has denied all allegations.
“I did make mistakes, in that I engaged in inappropriate text messages,” the Republican lawmaker said at a press conference announcing his decision. “I engaged in banter that was consensual, yet make no mistake, it was wrong on my part to do that. And for that I am truly sorry.”
The Courier-Journal was the first to report Hoover’s settlement last week, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The settlement involved three other Republican state representatives and Hoover’s chief of staff, the newspaper reported.
Hoover and his accuser, whom the Courier-Journal has not identified because she says she was sexually harassed, declined to comment, as did a lawyer for the woman, the newspaper said.
Hoover asked for the public’s forgiveness in a tearful statement on Sunday, saying, “To say that the past few weeks and days have been trying and difficult for me and my family would be an understatement.”
Kentucky’s House speaker pro tempore, Republican David Osborne, said in a statement that he will be assuming operational control of the chamber as acting speaker.
Hoover’s resignation comes a day after Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, also a Republican, called for “the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case, who is party to trying to hide this type of behavior.”
In a press conference Saturday, Bevin drew a “clear line in the sand for every elected official in Kentucky. These actions that have been alleged, not denied, and increasingly corroborated, and that are increasing in specificity and in number, were not isolated to a single person, or a single event, but involved multiple events and multiple people.”
“They know who they are, some have been named,” Bevin said. “I would simply say this: For the sake of themselves, for the sake of their families and for the sake of Kentucky, they should resign. Period. The people of Kentucky deserve better than the type of shenanigans that have gone on for far too long in this town.”
“I expect the immediate resignation of everyone named,” Bevin concluded.
Hours after Bevin’s speech, Hoover issued a statement that stopped short of confirming the Courier-Journal report.
“I am disappointed that our Governor in his press conference Saturday afternoon would call not only for my resignation but the resignation of other individuals who have no involvement in this matter,” he said. “The governor has yet to ask our side of the story. He and I have not spoken since the story broke, and I did not receive a courtesy call from him before his grandstanding today. Instead, he has accepted as fact only, one side of the story.”
“In effect, the governor seeks to be judge, jury, and executioner without hearing the evidence,” Hoover said, adding then that he had no plans to resign, and was “more resolved than ever to continue my work as speaker thru the 2018 session.”