U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleischmann said today they did not participate in or witness a late-night swim in Israel last year in which one lawmaker disrobed and jumped into the Sea of Galilee and others shed some of their clothing to go frolicking in the water.
Ditto with Rep. Stephen Fincher: “It was unfortunate that the behavior of some folks was not acceptable,” Fincher said Monday. “While this was going on, I was doing one of my favorite things — having dinner with my wife. More HERE.
Further on the DesJarlais/Fleischmann fromt from Michael Collins.
Both East Tennessee lawmakers were on the fact-finding trip to Israel with other freshman members of Congress and their families. But they said they did not participate in the questionable swim, which, according to a published report, may have been fueled by alcohol consumption and led to an FBI inquiry.
“While the congressman was on the trip to Israel reinforcing our nation’s relationship with this important ally, he was not involved in the incident in question,” said DesJarlais’ spokesman, Robert Jameson.
Asked if the Jasper Republican had witnessed the activity, Jameson said, “The congressman did not see the incident.”
Fleischmann’s office also said he “neither participated, nor was aware of, any of the activities” in question.
“In fact, during the night in question, Congressman Fleischmann participated in a conference call with reporters, after which he and his wife retired to bed,” said Fleischmann’s spokesman, Alek Vey.
The trip, which took place Aug. 13-21, 2011, was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, which funds what it describes as “educational seminars” to Israel for members of Congress and others who are influential politically.
The foundation says the purpose of the trips is to educate political leaders about the importance of Israel’s relationship with the United States by offering firsthand experiences in the country, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli politicians.
Last year’s trip attracted the attention of the FBI after one lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., took off his clothes and jumped into the Sea of Galilee, joining other members, their families and GOP staff, according to a report in Politico, an online publication.
Other participants swam fully clothed, while some lawmakers partially disrobed, according to Politico. More than 20 people reportedly took part in the late-night dip in the sea, a Christian holy site where Jesus is said to have walked on water and performed other miracles.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who attended the trip but did not participate in the swim, reportedly was so upset that he admonished the participants and said their behavior was taking away from the mission of the trip.
The FBI also looked into whether any inappropriate behavior occurred, but apparently did not file any formal allegations of wrongdoing, Politico said.
Jameson also said the FBI did not question DesJarlais about the trip. Vey said Fleischmann has not been interviewed “by any federal agency in relation to the activities of this trip.”
DesJarlais was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Amy, while Fleischmann was joined by his wife, Brenda.