A man who centered his decades-long political career on traditional moral values resigned from office on Friday, moments before the one-two publication of reports in Politico and the Associated Press detailing allegations that he had propositioned female staffers to serve as gestational surrogates for him and his wife. The proposals reportedly entailed seven-figure cash offers and left staffers wondering whether Franks was suggesting that he impregnate the women himself.
The allegations of sexual misconduct against Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) are only the latest in a flood of similar accusations, which have resulted in the resignations of Franks and two other members of Congress this week. The bizarre details of the reports, however, stand out even among the crowded field of sexual misconduct in the nation’s capital.
Politico reported on Friday afternoon that Franks, an eight-term congressman, had allegedly made “unwanted advances toward female staffers,” approaching at least two members of his staff about their potential interest in serving as a gestational carrier. A former staffer also alleged that the Arizona Republican had a female aide read an article detailing how a person knows that they are in love to convince her that they were, themselves, in love.
Almost simultaneously, the Associated Press published allegations from a former aide that Franks had pressured her at least four times about serving as a gestational surrogate, at one point offering her $5 million to carry his child. Franks was one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with estimates of his net worth ranging has high as $54 million.
Franks had announced on Thursday his intention to resign from office in January 2018, following unspecified allegations of sexual misconduct that he characterized as “discussion” of surrogacy in the workplace. Franks said at the time that he and his wife “have long struggled with infertility.”
But after Politico reached out to Franks with more detailed allegations on Thursday night, he announced his immediate resignation.
“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” Franks said in a short statement. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today.”
Franks, 60, has denied all allegations that he pressured members of his staff about carrying his children, stating categorically that he “absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.”
Perhaps not since 1942, when Massachusetts Sen. David I. Walsh was accused of frequenting a male brothel in Brooklyn that had been infiltrated by Nazi spies, has a member of Congress been accused of such fantastically inappropriate sexual misconduct.
The allegations are all the more bizarre, however, when viewed in light of Franks’ career-long fulminations on traditional family values.
Franks used to picket outside abortion clinics before he joined the Arizona Legislature where he chaired the House Subcommittee on Child Protection and Family Preservation. Franks later founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, a satellite organization of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
Since his election to Congress, Franks has put abortion at the forefront of his legislative agenda, even pinning a tweet depicting a photo of a fetus in utero. In October, Franks introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act, a bill that would make it a crime to perform an abortion more than 20 weeks after conception. Franks has also voted against stem cell research involving human embryos, and once described abortion as “the greatest human holocaust in the history of mankind.”
Franks even specified in his initial letter declaring his intent to resign from office that his previous attempt at surrogacy, which resulted in his twin children, was “a pro-life approach that did not discard or throw away any embryos” (PDF).
Messages left at Franks’ office inquiring whether his alleged surrogacy proposals entailed similar “pro-life” approaches were not returned.