Republicans in Kentucky’s House of Representatives say Speaker Jeff Hoover still has their support after a report alleging he secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer.
GOP members of the chamber held a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon to discuss Hoover’s position after the bombshell report was published earlier this week.
Hoover did not talk to reporters after the nearly three-hour long meeting and has not confirmed or denied the allegations, which were first raised by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
In an impromptu news conference after the Friday meeting, Majority Leader Jonathan Shell said Republican House members discussed the allegations, which he dismissed as “rumor and innuendo.”
“We had a discussion on it but as far as clearing up any rumors and allegations, that’s what they are,” Shell said. “We addressed the story that came out, the embarrassments that it’s caused.”
Shell said the caucus did not hold a vote on whether to keep Hoover as speaker, but nonetheless said Hoover has “full support.”
But that doesn’t appear to be true for all 64 Republicans in the House.
Rep. Wesley Morgan, a freshman Republican from Richmond, contradicted Shell’s statement on Twitter Friday evening.
“I have always considered Speaker Hoover to be an honorable man, but I do not condone in any fashion sexual harassment,” Morgan said.
“The Speaker has made it clear that he refuses to resign. With that being said, the only option is impeachment by the full house.”
Morgan said he had withdrawn an invitation for Hoover to speak at a fundraier event later this month.
The Courier-Journal reported Wednesday evening that Hoover settled a complaint with a female subordinate last week. The story said that Hoover exchanged sexually-charged text messages and requested pictures from a female subordinate.
The allegations stem from early 2016, when Hoover was still the minority leader in the House — he became speaker after sweeping Republican victories in House elections last November.
Requests to Hoover’s communications director, Daisy Olivo, have been directed to the speaker’s policy director Tommy Druen who hasn’t returned a request for comment.
Hoover is a 57-year-old lawyer from Jamestown in Russell County and has been a member of the House since 1996. He served as the minority leader for 15 years before becoming the first Republican to lead the chamber since 1921.
The allegations come as Hoover is trying to rally Republicans behind Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to overhaul the state’s pension systems, which has drawn fire from state workers and teachers.
Shell said the bill doesn’t have the support of House Republicans, but said the lack of support isn’t tied to the Hoover allegations.
“This bill was in trouble before anything came out in the Courier-Journal,” Shell said. “We’re just trying to get something that we can actually pass, something that actually impacts the pension problem.”
Hoover told reporters at a Kentucky Hospital Association event on Friday that he would “absolutely not” resign from his position.