On Christmas Day, some members of the House Republican caucus received an unexpected message from former House Speaker Jeff Hoover — a text granting them his forgiveness.
“First, Merry Christmas to each of you and your families. Secondly, I want each of you to know that I totally and unconditionally forgive you for all things said and done over the past two months,” the Jamestown Republican said in a message obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader. “As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior today, I am reminded that Jesus made it clear that we can’t receive God’s grace and then refuse to give it to others who we may think have wronged or hurt us in some way.”
Hoover did not respond Thursday to a request for comment from the Herald-Leader. It is unclear how many lawmakers received the text message and exactly what actions Hoover was forgiving.
Hoover said he would step down as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives in November after secretly settling a sexual harassment claim made by a member of his staff. The day before his tearful announcement, eight members of the Republican caucus wrote an open letter calling for his resignation and other House Republican leaders called for an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations.
Hoover’s message of forgiveness was bothersome to some members of the House Republican caucus, given that it was Hoover who admitted to sending sexually explicit text messages to a staffer — a misdeed that similarly sank the Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives.
“It wasn’t sent to me, so obviously he didn’t forgive me,” said Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond.
Morgan, who has filed a resolution to expel Hoover from the House, is concerned the text might be a signal that Hoover will try to keep his position as Speaker of the House when the legislature convenes Tuesday for its annual session.
“It’s my impression that he’s going to make a power play to try and come back as speaker,” Morgan said. “My feeling is that he’s trying to sway those people not to fight him.”
Though Hoover said he would resign from his leadership post, he has not filed a formal letter of resignation to the House of Representatives, which is required by law.
And Hoover still has the support of at least part of the Republican caucus.
State Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, said earlier this month he thinks Hoover should remain speaker and has called lawmakers asking them to support Hoover. He also has criticized Gov. Matt Bevin, a fellow Republican, for calling on Hoover and three other GOP lawmakers who signed the secret sexual harassment settlement to resign their seats in the legislature. Like Hoover, the other lawmakers — Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Michael Meredith of Oakland and Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green — have ignored Bevin’s plea.
Also, when Bevin tried to get the Republican Party of Kentucky to call for the resignation of anyone who has settled sexual harassment allegations, the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Central Committee shot him down, citing the need for “due process.”
Regardless of his intentions, Hoover made it clear in his Christmas message that he has kept track of the people who didn’t support him amid the scandal.
“As I walked thru this valley in the past two months, God has blessed me and my family in so many ways,” Hoover said in the message. “God has forgiven me of my sin and mistakes. He expects me to forgive those who have said and done things which have hurt me and my family and he expects me to extend grace to them, so I do to each of you. No matter what a person has done, and no matter what has been done to someone, God’s grace is always greater. I wish each of you and your families Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you soon.”