Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee is exploring legal options stemming from allegations he molested a second cousin some 50 years ago, a representative in his office told Fox News on Tuesday, but did not say whether the congressman will sue his relatives for making the claim.
Kildee, a Democrat who is retiring next year after 18 terms in office, told The Flint Journal in an interview that was published Tuesday that he is angry that his relatives are trying to sully the family name.
"I'm angry. It's outrageous," Kildee is quoted telling the newspaper. "I'm 82 years old. I'm not going to be around that long, but (my grandkids) are going to be around a long, long time. I'm not going to let that name be besmirched by people who first of all suffer ... mental health issues."
Kildee's office did not tell Fox News whether the congressman has retained legal counsel. The lawmaker told the newspaper that he is weighing his next step.
"Truth is the best defense. That's what we've done from the very beginning is just tell the truth. It's unfortunate I have to defend myself this late in life but I'm going to defend myself," he reportedly said.
Kildee has refuted the allegations that he repeatedly assaulted a cousin, Patrick, when Patrick was 15 years old, now 50 years ago. The allegations -- that the abuse started when Patrick was 12 and continued for five years -- reportedly were first told by Patrick's mother, stepfather and sister to Jon Yinger, president of the Christian Broadcasting System.
Patrick Kildee, who is not now institutionalized but previously stayed in a psychiatric hospital two decades ago for schizophrenic manic-depression, told WNEM television on Monday that he confronted his cousin years ago over the allegations when he came to visit him. Patrick Kildee recounted how Dale Kildee and he were driving in a car when the congressman told him that every year he makes a confession about his action.
"He says you have no idea how much I've suffered for what I did to you," Patrick Kildee told WNEM, adding that when he was about to forgive him, Dale Kildee then said, "Well you know you did come on to me."
"And I said, 'What?' He says, 'Well this was a mutual thing.' I said, 'Let me out of the car.' And he says, 'Oh no, no, no. Let's talk about it.' And I said, 'Let me out of the car.' And I got out of the car and walked away and it was the last time I ever seen the man," Patrick Kildee said.
Kildee declared the charges part of a smear campaign that followed a botched attempt to blackmail him. Kildee supporters argue that the concerted effort is part of a campaign to make sure Republicans take the seat in the next election. Kildee's nephew, Dan Kildee, a former Genesee County treasurer, is among the Democratic candidates running for the post.
Kildee backers note that the allegations -- made in recorded interviews released by independent reporter Susan Bradford -- were obtained by Yinger through the help of Genesee County Republican Party Chairwoman Prudy Adam.
Yinger, who owns WSNL-AM in Flint, denied a political motivation. He told The Flint Journal on Monday that he first got the interviews before the 2010 election but didn't use them as a tool in the election because the circumstances were much more troubling than politics.
"It was about getting down to the bottom of things, researching and digging and finding facts. It's up to the people to decide. We’ve been very diligent," he reportedly said.
Yinger reportedly added that Bradford did not have permission to publish the recordings and he was working with his attorneys to have the posts removed.
Bradford has said she has no idea if the allegations are true.
"I did not interview the family myself," Bradford wrote on her blog. "I have no knowledge of any evidence, beyond allegations of a father's confession on a death bed and alleged police/hospital reports in which Patrick, who was mentally ill and abusing drugs/alcohol accused Kildee of abuse."
According to Bradford, Yinger reported an ethics complaint to the House Permanent Select Committee on Standards and Conduct in April 2011 after hearing the story from Kildee's relatives. She speculated that the complaint led to Kildee's decision to retire in July.
"I was uncomfortable with the story as I don't even like to make accusations unless I have absolute proof nor do I think it's fair for the accused to be convicted through trial by media," Bradford wrote in an email to The Flint Journal. "And in this case, we only have hearsay."
Fox News has confirmed that materials related to the Kildee allegation have been presented to the ethics committee. But technically, it can only take referrals from within the body. The Office of Congressional Ethics, which accepts complaints from outside Congress, can forward complaints it deems to have merits. It is then up to the ethics panel to entertain those complaints.