U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas, 6th District) told a woman that he would complain to U.S. Capitol Police if sexually explicit photographs of him and other material from their relationship were to be exposed publicly, according to a published report.
The Washington Post reported the threat Wednesday after Barton, 68, apologized for a nude photo of him that was published and circulated on social media.
The photo of Barton first appeared on an anonymous Twitter account. It was not immediately known who posted the photo or when it was taken.
Wednesday morning, Barton released a statement in response to the image being shared on social media: "While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down. - Joe Barton"
Later in the day, Barton released a second statement saying the release of the photo may make him the victim of a crime:
"The Dallas Morning News has identified a potential crime against me and the transcript referenced in the Washington Post may be evidence. This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship. When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment."
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Barton is referring to Texas' 2015 law banning "revenge porn," or the unlawful distribution or publication of intimate photos with the subject's permission.
Barton's acknowledgment of the photo was first reported by The Texas Tribune, where he said Tuesday, "You're as aware of what was posted as I am."
A woman, whom the Post did not identify, told the newspaper of Barton's threat over the sexually explicit photographs, videos and messages he had sent to her. The woman described sexual encounters and contact extending over five years, beginning with her posting of a message on Barton's Facebook page in 2011.
She also shared with the Post a secretly recorded telephone conversation with Barton in 2015 in which he warned her against using the material "in a way that would negatively affect my career."
The Post reported the woman spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy.
A message left by The Associated Press at Barton's district office in Arlington was not returned. The voicemail for his office in Washington D.C. was full.
Barton, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who was last elected in 2016 and is the longest-serving Congress member from Texas, had announced he was running for re-election in 2018 and hoped to secure his 18th, 2-year term in the U.S. House.
He told the Texas Tribune Tuesday that he was considering his future in light of the leaked photo, but his spokeswoman told The Dallas Morning News that Barton has no plans to step down.
"I am talking to a number of people, all of whom I have faith in, and am deciding how to respond, quite frankly," Barton told The Texas Tribune.
Barton was a consultant in the oil and gas industry before he joined the U.S. House in 1985. He is currently the vice chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee. He was the committee's chairman from 2004 until 2007.
In 2010, he publicly apologized to the CEO of the BP energy company after a BP-operated well caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, polluting 1,300 miles of shoreline and crippling the fishing industry.
Barton said at the time that the government was guilty of a "shakedown" in its demands for BP to pay for the cleanup. He later retracted his apology after Republican leaders threatened to remove him from a ranking committee position if he did not do so.
Among those in North Texas who know Barton well, especially in politics, are State Rep. Stephanie Klick who got to know the congressman well when she led the GOP in Tarrant County.
Klick declined to go on camera, but sent NBC 5 a statement saying, “I am disappointed in Congressman Barton’s admitted behavior. This is embarrassing for the congressman, but also to his family and supporters."
Samantha Jordan, the spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, worked for Barton from 1995 to 2005 as communications director and as deputy chief of staff.
“I never saw anything but completely professional behavior,” said Jordan. “I had a very good experience working in that office. I learned a lot while working for Representative Barton.”
The Texas congressman has also been the longtime manager of the GOP congressional baseball team. He was taking part in a team practice in June when a gunman opened fire, injuring a congressman and others.