Thursday, April 10, 2014
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Captured on tape kissing another man's wife, a married Republican congressman was urged Wednesday by the leader of the Louisiana GOP to resign from the seat he's only held since November.
Rep. Vance McAllister appealed for privacy for his family "during this difficult period." He and his wife have five children.
A person close to the Republican Party of Louisiana told The Associated Press that party chairman Roger Villere was trying to persuade McAllister to step aside immediately. The source asked not to be named because Villere hadn't spoken directly with McAllister and conversations continue with the congressman's staff.
A brief statement from McAllister on Wednesday offered no answers to the questions that have swirled about his private life — or political future — since the videotape surfaced of him kissing a woman identified as Melissa Peacock, who resigned Monday from his congressional payroll.
Jennifer Dunagin, a spokeswoman, said in the statement that McAllister "will not pursue an FBI investigation at this time regarding the distribution of a video filmed in leased federal office space." She said the congressman "is focused on earning back the trust of those he has disappointed, and he reiterates his request for privacy for his family during this difficult period."
The congressman has been absent from the House this week, and it was not known if he intended to return to the Capitol before lawmakers begin a scheduled two-week vacation to coincide with Easter.
Other Republican members of Congress from his state generally avoided direct comment about the burgeoning scandal, although Rep. John Fleming said, "the longer he's not up here (in Washington), the more he is paralyzed as a functioning congressman."
Rep. Bill Cassidy told reporters, "It is a family tragedy for two families," and declined further comment.
Sen. David Vitter, who survived a prostitution scandal a few years ago, didn't offer political guidance. Instead, he issued a statement saying, "My sole focus and reaction is about the McAllister family and the other family directly involved. My thoughts and prayers go out to them, and I wish them real and deep comfort and healing."
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner said the House's top Republican had not spoken with McAllister since the videotape surfaced.
The videotape, which shows a man and a woman in a long kiss, was taken inside McAllister's congressional suite of offices in Monroe, La., a little more than a month after he won his seat in Congress. It is not publicly known how the recording made its way into the Ouachita Citizen, which posted it and said it had been made on Dec. 23.
According to the LegiStorm, a website that tracks congressional salaries, Peacock joined McAllister's congressional staff shortly after his election in November, earning about $407 a week, or less than $22,000 a year. She and her husband were contributors to McAllister's campaign.
Her husband, Heath Peacock, told CNN in an interview that McAllister "has wrecked my life." The network quoted Peacock as saying: "I loved my wife so much. I cannot believe this."
The businessman won his congressional seat in an upset last fall in to the seat held by former Rep. Rodney Alexander, who resigned. McAllister was able to finance much of his campaign on his own, and he also benefited from an endorsement from the bearded men of the popular "Duck Dynasty" reality TV show.
McAllister's campaign website says he "was taught at a young age the importance of faith, family, and hard work."
In a campaign commercial that aired in last fall's race, he was shown with his wife, Kelly, and their five children, and said: "We have a big family breakfast every Sunday before church."
He said in the ad that he and his wife try to instill "the values of faith, family and country" at home. "If you will trust me with your vote, you can count on me to take those values to Washington and defend our Christian way of life," he added.
In an interview with The News-Star in Monroe, La., he said he intends to seek re-election to a full term in November "unless there is an outcry for me not to serve."
Dunagin said Peacock, "voluntarily resigned" after the story broke on Monday.
A report filed with the Federal Election Commission lists a $300 payment to Peacock as "reimbursement for headquarter cleaning" in McAllister's Monroe campaign office, before she joined his staff.
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.