Missouri House Speaker apologizes after report about intern
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri House Speaker John Diehl apologized Wednesday for his "poor judgment" following a newspaper report that he had exchanged sexually charged text messages with a college student who was serving as a Capitol intern.
While asking for forgiveness, Diehl also appealed to his colleagues to retain their support as a Democratic lawmaker launched an effort to try to remove the Republican from the chamber's top position, which he was elected to in January.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry to those I let down," Diehl said in a written statement, released after he had secluded himself in his Capitol office for about five hours. "I apologize for the poor judgment I displayed that put me and those closest to me in this situation. "
Earlier Wednesday, The Kansas City Star released a story accompanied by screenshots of apparent electronic messages between Diehl and a college student who was a Capitol intern. The messages included some sexually suggestive discussions and revealed what The Star described as a "flirty rapport" suggesting an intimate relationship.
The revelations about Diehl came as lawmakers - already tense and tired - are working toward a Friday deadline to pass legislation. Diehl skipped the final vote Wednesday on a highly contentious priority of GOP leaders that would make Missouri a right-to-work state banning mandatory union fees.
Diehl's statement did not specifically mention the text messages but expressed regret.
"The buck stops here. I ask for forgiveness. I will begin immediately working to restore the trust of those closest to me, and getting back to the important work that is required in the final days of session," Diehl said.
The intern, who no longer works at the Capitol, declined to comment Wednesday and referred The Associated Press to attorney Phil Willoughby, a former Democratic state House member. Willoughby said the intern would not be making any statements.