House Republicans rallied around embattled Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover on Friday as he vowed to remain in his leadership post despite a report that he secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint with one of his legislative staffers.
“Absolutely not,” Hoover told reporters in Lexington on Friday morning when asked if he will resign his job as the top Republican in the House of Representatives.
Hours later, with Hoover’s wife Karyn in the building, House Republicans met in the Capitol Annex for a meeting originally scheduled to discuss a stalled proposal to overhaul Kentucky’s ailing public pension systems.
“Right now, Jeff Hoover is the Speaker of the House and he has the full support of the caucus,” House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said after the meeting.
Hoover did not speak to the media after the meeting. When asked about the reported settlement Thursday night, Hoover told the Herald-Leader “I cannot and will not have any comment.”
Republicans have been scrambling to measure the impact of an anonymously sourced report by the Louisville Courier-Journal published Wednesday night that said Hoover reached a settlement with a female staff member who alleged sexual harassment over an extended period. The Courier-Journal detailed several text messages that were allegedly sent by Hoover and the staffer. Those messages were referenced in a demand letter the staffer recently sent to Hoover, according to the newspaper.
House Republicans did not take a vote Friday on whether Hoover should continue as their leader, Shell said. He also declined to say whether the caucus’s support for Hoover is unanimous. A few hours after the meeting, state Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, tweeted that Shell’s comments “did not reflect the consensus of our caucus.”
Morgan also said he has rescinded an invitation to Hoover to be a special guest of his at a Nov. 30 fundraiser and mentioned the possibility of impeaching Hoover.
Shell said the controversy surrounding Hoover is based on “rumor, allegations on social media and allegations in the media.”
“We had ample opportunity for members to discuss rumors that are being heard in the media, but the majority of the meeting was about pensions,” Shell said.
When asked Friday if the Republican Party of Kentucky stands behind Hoover’s decision to remain House speaker, party spokesman Tres Watson said “we are still waiting to see all the facts. Other than that, we have no further comment on the situation at this time.”
Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, has remained silent on the allegations against Hoover.
When state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, was told by a reporter Friday morning that Hoover said he won’t resign, Miller said “good” and turned away as he walked into Republican offices in the Capitol Annex.
State Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, said “at this point I have only seen one newspaper report, but at this point he still has my support, yes.”
When asked if she still supports Hoover, state Rep. Kimberly Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said, “I don’t know all the facts. I need more information.”
In July, Senate Democrats voted to remove state Sen. Julian Carroll of Frankfort from his leadership position of minority whip and called for his resignation a day after a news report that he allegedly propositioned and groped a 30-year-old man in 2005.
Carroll denied the allegations and said he would resign his leadership position because of his age, 86, and limited ability to travel without assistance. He did not resign from the Senate.