Kan. congressman apologizes for nude swim in Sea of Galilee
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., has apologized to his constituents after a published report revealed that the freshman congressman swam nude in the Sea of Galilee during a private fact-finding trip to the Middle East last year.
Politico reported the incident in a website story Sunday. The article said the FBI investigated the trip, which included other lawmakers and their spouses, as well as staff members.
"I feel incredibly remorseful that I have caused embarrassment to my constituents and I have caused folks who believe in me to be disappointed," Mr. Yoder said in an interview.
"The gravity of the situation and the actions I've taken are not lost on me, and I feel certainly regret at what has occurred, and I just want to apologize to my constituents for a momentary lapse in judgment."
It was not immediately clear what the FBI might have examined in relation to the trip. Mr. Yoder and his chief of staff, Travis Smith, said neither the Republican congressman nor any staff had spoken with the FBI.
But the revelation of the incident could prove embarrassing for Mr. Yoder. He is running unopposed for re-election.
In its story, Politico said it was told privately that alcohol may have been involved in the incident, which occurred the evening of Aug. 18, 2011. Mr. Smith said the congressman had wine at dinner but was not drunk.
Christians consider the Sea of Galilee, a lake in northern Israel, a holy site; the Bible says Jesus walked on its waters.
Mr. Yoder, 36, admitted that he dove into the sea "without a swimsuit."
"Part of the reason I made that decision at that moment was there was really nobody in the vicinity who could see me," he said. "I dove in, hopped right back out, put my clothes on and, regardless, that was still not the behavior people expected out of their congressman."
He said it was dark with visibility limited to only a few feet, and he was in the water for about 10 seconds before climbing out.
Politico said Mr. Yoder was the only person among the trip party to remove all his clothes. His wife, Brooke, accompanied him but did not swim.
The trip, said to have been open only to those 18 and over, was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, according to a travel records database maintained by Legistorm.com. The trip lasted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21 last year, the record show, and cost the foundation $20,087 for Mr. Yoder and his wife's travel, lodging, meals and other expenses.
The foundation, a charity, says its mission is to provide grants for educational programs and conferences and to "help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through first-hand experiences in Israel."
The foundation is linked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is tied to many conservatives in Congress.
Politico reported that 20 lawmakers and staff, of about 30 on the trip, were believed to have jumped in the Sea of Galilee. It said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, the trip's top Republican, scolded members for their behavior afterward. He did not swim that night, it said.
Citing sources, the website said other freshmen and guests who swam in the sea included Florida Rep. Steve Southerland and his daughter, New York Rep. Tom Reed and his wife, and Reps. Ben Quayle of Arizona, Jeff Denham of California and Michael Grimm of New York. All the lawmakers are Republicans.
First Published August 21, 2012 12:00 am