Spectacle: Hoover should have simply gone quietly

Published 11:38 am Thursday, January 18, 2018

Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover did not go quietly into the night. That resulted in an unfortunate spectacle.

Hoover and three other members of Republican leadership announced in November they were resigning their roles after word leaked that they had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim made by a House Republican Caucus staffer.

Hoover was the legislator most in the crosshairs. He admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with the woman but denied sexually harassing her. To date details of the specific allegations and terms of the settlement have remained confidential. But some sordid emails between Hoover and the woman did become public, including one in which Hoover asks her to send him pictures of herself wearing a lace G-string.

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The episode might have faded from public view but for a more recent fit of stupidity by Hoover and some of his House colleagues. Hoover’s resignation could not officially be submitted while the Legislature was not in session. Some lawmakers including Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield began lobbying colleagues over the holidays not to accept Hoover’s resignation when the General Assembly convened earlier this month.

Hoover was onboard with the idea. When the session began last week, rather than resign he announced that House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne would preside over the chamber “until further notice.”

This not only provoked a furor; it led eight Republican lawmakers to file formal charges against Hoover seeking his ouster from the Legislature altogether. The legislators alleged Hoover sexually harassed an employee and used state funds to cover it up. The charges resulted in the appointment of a special committee of four Republicans and three Democrats to investigate the claim.

In the end the stakes proved too high for Hoover and his backers. Hoover grudgingly offered his resignation Monday “if accepted by members of the House.” When no member objected, Osborne deemed the resignation accepted.

Ask yourself this: What aspect of the harassment claim could be so damning that the mere reporting of the settlement’s existence compelled four members of Republican leadership to immediately resign? One thing seems clear to us. If the investigation of Hoover proceeds, we’re going to find out.

Hoover did not take Monday’s House decision well. He delivered a scorched-earth parting speech in which he vowed to expose lawmakers and staff members he says worked to oust him. Expose them for what we are not sure, although we cannot help but be intrigued.

Most troubling to us is Hoover’s assertion in the speech the he simply “made a mistake” and that “I did not do anything that was unethical.” That is delusional. It is clearly unethical for a married man in a position of power to engage in a running dialogue of sexting with a female subordinate, consensual or not.

We wonder what it is about the political ether that produces such detachment from reality. And for that matter, we wonder what persuades Hoover’s backers that everyday Kentuckians would be just fine with it if Republicans decided to give Hoover a pass.

It was a bad bet for all concerned. If another shoe does drop, we wouldn’t want to be one of the lawmakers who was carrying Hoover’s water.

The Paducah Sun