Arizona Congressman Trent Franks is expected to resign over allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior. Here’s five things to know:
1. He Allegedly Asked Female Subordinates to Carry Surrogate Pregnancies
Roll Call first reported news of Franks’ impending resignation on Thursday, citing a “source with knowledge.” Franks himself would neither confirm nor deny this when asked, but did tell Roll Call “We will have a statement a little bit later, but that’s all I can tell you right now. The statement will explain.”
In the statement, which Franks released on Thursday afternoon (Arizona time), he said that he is resigning after learning that the House Ethics Committee was investigating him for comments he’d previously made about his wife’s surrogate pregnancies to female subordinates (or, as Politico reporter Kyle Cheney said, because he’d asked those female subordinates to become surrogate carriers for his biological children).
However, not long after Franks’ statement came out, MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted the breaking news that the House Ethics Committee said it was investigating Franks for “possible sexual harassment/retaliation.”
An unnamed Arizona Republican told Roll Call that rumors about sexually inappropriate behavior have swirled around Franks since at least 2012.
Franks first assumed office in 2003. He was also one of the first members of the House to join the Tea Party Caucus, and also joined the House Freedom Caucus when it started in 2015. (The Tea Party and Freedom Caucuses are not identical, though have much in common.) Politico referred to him as “one of the most outspoken opponents of abortion in Congress.”
In his official House of Representatives biography, Franks mentions that he founded and spent four years serving as Executive Director of the Arizona Family Research Institute, which he describes as “a non-profit organization associated with Dr. James Dobson’s ‘Focus on the Family’ for the purpose of advocating and advancing public policy to protect children and families in Arizona”–namely, an anti-abortion group. His biography also mentions that he and his wife Josephine spent 22 years teaching Sunday school to one- and two-year-olds.
2. He Once Called Barack Obama an ‘Enemy of Humanity’
In September 2009, Franks generated controversy when he spoke at a “How to Take Back America” conference and called then-president Barack Obama “an enemy of humanity.”
His full words, as reported by CBSNews, were as follows:
Obama’s first act as president of any consequence, in the middle of a financial meltdown, was to send taxpayers’ money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries. Now, I got to tell you, if a president will do that, there’s almost nothing that you should be surprised at after that. We shouldn’t be shocked that he does all these other insane things. A president that has lost his way that badly, that has no ability to see the image of God in these little fellow human beings, if he can’t do that right, then he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity.
A spokesperson for Franks later clarified that Franks meant Obama was merely the enemy of unborn humanity.
3. He Believes Obama is a U.S. Citizen, but Still Wanted to See a ‘Long-Form’ Birth Certificate
At a “town hall” meeting in 2009, Franks made a statement suggesting he was a “Birther” (a person who believes that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen, and therefore was never eligible to be president). However, as the Washington Independent reported at the time, Franks’ spokesperson later clarified that Franks was misquoted; Bethany Haley said that “he had, at one time, considered the possibility of filing a lawsuit back when the issue was first brought to his attention before and just after the election.” But Haley went on to say that Franks “believes it’s ridiculous for the President of the United States, who ran on a platform of transparency and accountability, to dismiss so glibly the concerns of literally millions of Americans, and allow such a ridiculous debate to continue when it could so easily be settled once and for all.”
Franks later that that before the 2008 election, he had briefly considered a lawsuit demanding Obama provide proof of citizenship, but changed his mind after becoming convinced that Obama was indeed a citizen. But at the “How to Take Back America” conference, Franks still suggested the “Birther” controversy was Obama’s fault for refusing to settle it when he easily could: “Probably, Barack Obama could solve this problem and make the birthers, you know, back off, by simply showing us his long-form birth certificate. That’d solve the problem. There’s some other issue, I don’t know what it is, that he doesn’t want people to see the birth certificate on.”
4. He’s Among the Wealthiest Members of Congress
In June 2017, the Phoenix New Times noted that Rep. Franks was wealthy even by Congressional standards, where being a millionaire is the norm.
Much of Franks’ personal wealth comes from the oil business; the New Times report note that as of 2014 (the most recent disclosure statement then available), Franks’ shares in Trinity Petroleum were worth anywhere from $5 to $25 million. Trinity shared the same address as Liberty Petroleum, a company Franks and his brother Lane co-founded in 1997. Franks was Liberty’s CEO for awhile, before he stepped down to run for Congress.
According to a 2014 data analysis by Ballotpedia, Franks’ personal net worth had increased by over $25 million since he first assumed office in 2003.
5. He Believes the Chances of a Rape Victim Getting Pregnant are ‘Very Low’
In June 2013 Franks generated another controversy when he said the chances of getting pregnant from rape were “very low.”
Franks said this while promoting a measure that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, and arguing against a proposed amendment to make exceptions for victims of rape and incest. “Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said.
A 2003 study by St. Lawrence University shows pregnancy was actually more likely to result from rape than from other cases.
Franks is also vociferously opposed to gay marriage. In 2011, he said it is “literally a threat to the nation’s survival.”