Republican Rep. Joe Barton (TX) apologized Wednesday for a nude photo that leaked online earlier in the week, claiming he'd traded the picture with a woman with whom he'd had a consensual sexual relationship.
But according to The Washington Post, the story has a more menacing wrinkle. A recording, obtained by WaPo, appears to feature Barton telling a woman who'd received his explicit texts that he'll report her to Capitol Police if the pictures ever surfaced in a way that would damage his reputation.
The woman, who refused to share her name, says she last spoke with Barton in 2015 when she secretly recorded him threatening to contact authorities if she used the photos “in a way that would negatively affect my career," but that she'd had regular contact with Barton since 2011. After leaving a message on his Facebook page, the two shared messages, pictures and two "physical encounters."
But in 2015, Barton reportedly contacted her to "confront" her over sharing his photos with other women.
“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording, adding: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”
“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”
Said Barton: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”
On its face, the recording seems to indicate that Barton was concerned his photos would eventually make their way to social media, and tried to threaten his former partner into keeping them secret.
But Barton says he believes the recording is evidence that he is the victim of "revenge porn" — that his former flame spread the images as a way of getting back at him after a difficult breakup. He claims that the Capitol Police are actually opening an investigation into the photos — and the woman.
“This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship,” Barton told The Washington Post. “When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.”
The Washington Post was not able to verify whether the Capitol Police had, indeed, opened an investigation. The woman told The Washington Post that she did not intend to soil Barton's reputation.
Barton is the first Republican legislator to face allegations of sexual impropriety in a wave of accusations sweeping through Hollywood, the media, and now, Congress. Aside from Barton, whose naked photos leaked online on Monday, Sen. Al Franken is facing a potential Senate Ethics investigation over several claims that he groped women at official events, and several former aides claim Rep. John Conyers sexually harassed them.