In 2011, a freshman House member Rep. Kevin Yoder, after an evening of drinking and partying, during an official tour of Israel, stripped naked and jumped into the Sea of Galilee, a holy site where Jesus reputedly walked on water and performed miracles.
Politico reports the FBI probed the late-night incident at the Sea of Galilee that involved several other GOP freshmen lawmakers. The alleged drunken partying and revelry that accompanied the Republican Congressmen's visit to the Holy Land prompted an FBI investigation. Embarrassed Republican leaders have reprimanded the lawmakers, the Daily Mail reports. FBI investigation sought to piece together exactly what happened in the water that night, and whether any improper conduct occurred.
Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, 36, who, according to Politico, was voted one of the "Hottest Freshmen in Congress," admitted that he skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee in August 2011, while on an official tour of Israel. Politico reports the incident happened after an evening of drinking and "hard-partying."
According to the Kansas City Star, about 30 freshmen lawmakers went to Israel in August 2011, on an all-expense paid trip with their families and aides. The trip, according to reports, cost $10,000 per person.
The young Congressman reportedly stripped naked in the presence of a daughter of one the Congressmen and the wife of another. The Congressional delegation stayed at the posh $1,000-a-night Scots Hotel in Tiberia, along the Sea of Galilee. Politico reports that while other Congressional staffers stayed at the hotel drinking, a group decided to take a dip in the nearby Sea of Galilee (a lake). Some entered the water in their clothes, others undressed partially, but Yoder stripped naked and frolicked in the water.
According to an Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, swimming in the lake is permitted, but public nudity is not. Rosenfeld said: "If someone walks around the beach naked, that's an offense." Rosenfeld, however, explained that no official complaint had been made against Yoder. He said the police could still investigate the incident, even a year after it happened. He said: "If that kind of incident takes place and someone makes an official compliant, we'll investigate."
This is not the first time Yoder is involved in allegations of unruly behavior. According to the Daily Mail, in 2009, he was cited for refusing to take a DUI breathalyser after he was pulled over by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper.
Politico reports that the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), closely tied to The American Israel Public Affairs Foundation (AIPAC), paid for the trip. Politico describes the trip as "rite of passage" for members of Congress, during which they visit the sacred sites in Israel and have their Israeli hosts impress on them the significance of the close US-Israel relations.
The freshmen lawmakers were accompanied in the trip by senior Republican leaders Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. Both Cantor and McCarthy, neither of whom participated in the swimming, were reportedly upset at the conduct of the Congressmen and accused them of trivializing the trip. Politico reports that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the most senior GOP lawmaker in the junket, rebuked the 30 lawmakers the morning after the incident on August 18, 2011.
A Cantor spokesman confirmed that he rebuked his Republican colleagues and that FBI agents interviewed a staffer. According to Doug Heye, Cantor's deputy chief of staff, “Twelve months ago, [Cantor] dealt with this immediately and effectively to ensure such activities would not take place in the future." He added: “Last year, a staffer was contacted by the Bureau [FBI], which had several questions, the staffer answered those questions and that appears to have been the end of it.”
Rep Yoder has admitted the incident and apologized in a statement to Politico:
"A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit. It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”
Yoder, in a statement to the Kansas City Star, said:
"I feel incredibly remorseful that I have caused embarrassment to my constituents and I have caused folks who believe in me to be disappointed. 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."
Yoder explained that it was dark and that visibility was only a few feet. He jumped into the water thinking no one could see him in the dark. He claimed he was in the water for only about 10 seconds. Kansas City Star reports 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."
Politico reports other Congressmen present at the late night dip were "Rep Steve Southerland, of Florida, and his daughter; Rep Tom Reed, of New York, and his wife; Reps Ben Quayle, of Arizona, Jeff Denham, of California, and Michael Grimm, of New York. Politico reports that aides who also joined the Congressmen in the water included Steve Stombres, Rep Cantor’s chief of staff; Tim Berry, Rep McCarthy’s chief of staff; Laena Fallon, Rep Cantor’s former communications director and Emily Murray, Rep McCarthy’s top health care aide."
According to Politico, the recent revelation could only further damage the image of the Congress following a series of scandals including that involving former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned following revelation that he sent naked pictures of himself to women he met online. Former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) also resigned after revelation that he had an extramarital affair with the wife of an aide.