This post has been updated.
A former communications director for Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) alleged the congressman was verbally abusive, sexually demeaning and he regularly called staffers “fucktards,” according to an exclusive CNN interview with the staffer.
Michael Rekola told CNN he had to start going to counseling and developed stress-related stomach issues that caused him to vomit daily at one point. Rekola has approached the House Ethics Committee and plans to share his accounts of Farenthold’s behavior with the investigative staff, according to CNN.
In a sweeping interview with the news outlet, Rekola shared multiple stories of abusive behavior by Farenthold, highlighting a particularly jarring incident that led Rekola to finally resign from his post. In July 2015, Rekola was leaving the office so he could go get married that weekend, and Farenthold told him he “better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” Farenthold also joked about whether Rekola’s fiancée should be allowed to wear white on her wedding day.
Rekola said Farenthold was also known for his screaming fits and often slammed his fists on desks. Rekola alleged the congressman often commented on the size of women’s breasts and buttocks and aides often made jokes about being on “redhead patrol” because Farenthold was attracted to women with red hair, he said.
“Every time he didn’t like something, he would call me a f**ktard or idiot. He would slam his fist down in rage and explode in anger,” Rekola told CNN. “He was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn’t find a way to control it.”
CNN corroborated Rekola’s story with his wife, friends, colleagues and also reviewed his medical records and correspondence with friends and colleagues at the time.
Lauren Greene, a former communications director for Farenthold, mentioned this detail in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the congressman. That suit was dropped after both parties agreed to a $84,000 settlement, which was paid with taxpayer funds from the Office of Compliance. The Ethics Committee is also looking into those allegations. Farenthold has denied all of her accusations.
Elizabeth Pearce, who was hired to work on the communications team in May 2015 when Rekola started having his stomach issues, confirmed that Farenthold regularly called aides “fucktards” and said she also heard the jokes the congressman made about Rekola’s fiancée.
Farenthold told CNN that he never made the comments about Rekola’s fiancee, but said he did regularly call his aides “fucktards,” but said the comments were made “in jest, not in anger.”
“In hindsight, I admit it wasn’t appropriate,” he told CNN.
Read the full CNN report here.