Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

 

Since it is Thanksgiving, I thought I’d post this heartwarming story of love in the 21st Century.

Yesterday, Texas Republican Joe Barton announced that, yes, the nude selfie purporting to show Barton in all of his pasty-white glory was legitimate.

“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.”

Apparently, when Barton was separated from his wife and not yet divorced he boinked several women. In this day and age, that is to be celebrated and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they were a) adult humans, b) women, and c) that neither Rohypnol nor an Al Franken authored script were used in the affairs. But there are always things we’d rather not imagine:

In addition to the recorded phone conversation, The Post reported that the woman had shared messages she exchanged with the congressman and a cellphone video of the congressman masturbating. The Post, which reviewed the video, said the photograph posted on Tuesday appeared to be a still shot from the video.

According to the Washington Post, Barton sent the video/images to his paramour. At some point, this woman found out there were *surprise* other women, got into contact with them and shared Barton’s opus magnum. Barton found out and reached out to her:

The woman spoke to The Post after the lewd photo was published Tuesday by an anonymous Twitter account. She shared a secretly recorded phone conversation she had with Barton in 2015 in which he warned her against using the explicit materials “in a way that would negatively affect my career.”

There is nothing illegal about this recording, both Texas and D.C. are “one-party consent” jurisdictions which means calls can be recorded so long as one party of the conversation knows the recording is taking place.

In the 2015 phone call, Barton confronted the woman over her communications with the other women, including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent. In that context, he mentioned the Capitol Police, a comment the woman interpreted as an attempt to intimidate her.

“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording, adding: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”

“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”

Said Barton: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”

She is telling people that she felt “threatened.” I’d used the word “forewarned” but, as we’re discovering, women are never in the wrong in these cases so I guess we’ll just have to accept the fact that she was threatened. This is how the reporter for the Washington Post’s article frames it on Twitter:

Yep, he did because he was afraid of being the victim of what is known as “blackmail.”

and?

All of that is true.

So it seems like he was right, right?

A woman with whom he is no longer in a relationship with was warning him about sleeping with (presumably) unmarried women while he was not married? That’s a bit maternalistic, don’t you think?

And when the images appeared, he did report it to the Capitol Police.

Why did the woman who distributed the image identify herself to the Washington Post?

The lewd Twitter photo that Barton acknowledged on Wednesday appears to have been captured from that video. The woman said she did not post the image herself. She shared phone numbers for Barton that match his personal and government-issued cellphones. Barton was not abusive or coercive in his interactions, the woman said, but said she felt he was “manipulative and dishonest and misleading” in his dealings with her and other women.

“It’s not normal for a member of Congress who runs on a GOP platform of family values and conservatism to be scouring the Internet looking for a new sexual liaison,” she said, explaining her motive for coming forward.

The woman said Barton first reached out to her in 2011 after she posted a comment about politics on his Facebook page. As the two struck up a friendship, they would exchange messages for hours, including when he was on the House floor or in committee meetings, she said.

Soon, Barton began flirting, making suggestive comments and sending explicit messages, she said. She described feeling uncomfortable with his advances at first.

He says to me, ‘Do you want me to send you a picture of myself?’ I said, ‘Oh no, no. Please do not do that.’ It kind of started there,” she said.

In the spring of 2012, the woman flew to Washington, where he gave her a tour of the Capitol building, she said. The two slept together during that visit, and he reimbursed her in cash for her flight, she said.

In 2014, she visited him in Texas, where the two slept together for the second and final time, she said. He again paid for her travel, she said. “I was in it for the politics connection,” the woman said of their relationship.“ I was kind of unwittingly drawn into it with him because of just the amazement of having a connection to a congressman,” she said.

In this case, a very obvious felony seems to have taken place. In August 2015, Texas passed a “revenge porn law.” It seems to criminalize what just happened in regards to Barton:

The new Texas law is entitled Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material. According to Section 21.16 of the Texas Penal Code, this crime occurs when a person:

  • Distributes or transfers photos of a person in which the subject is nude or engaged in sexual activity
  • Distributes such photos without the subject’s consent
  • Distributes such images when the subject took them with a reasonable expectation of privacy
  • Distributes such photos along with identifying personal information of the subject

While the woman, herself, seems to be protected by the whole “ex post facto” law prohibition, the person who started circulating it on Twitter is obviously not.

Barton will suffer some embarrassment here, as he should, and hopefully, he and others will learn a valuable lesson about sending nude photos and videos of yourself masturbating to anyone (I know, I’m being pollyannish here). Beyond that, Barton looks safe for re-election. Though I’m sure my soul is in jeopardy for hoping he wins.