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Account of overseas skinny-dipping fuels clarifications, accusations on Hill

 

A bizarre report about Republican congressmen on a late-night swim last year in the Sea of Galilee -- including one who went skinny-dipping -- triggered a flurry of clarifications from Capitol Hill overnight and a round of accusations between two primary opponents. 

The report in Politico said the FBI had looked into the incident in Israel last year, when a mix of GOP congressional freshmen and leaders were visiting as guests of The American Israel Educational Foundation. 

According to the report, Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder stripped naked and jumped into the water that night, as several other clothed or partially clothed lawmakers and staff members also went for a dip. For some, Politico reported, alcohol may have been a factor. 

Those who reportedly participated were Florida Rep. Steve Southerland, New York Rep. Tom Reed, California Rep. Jeff Denham and New York Rep. Michael Grimm. 

The story also named Arizona Rep. Ben Quayle as participating. But his office and his wife vehemently denied taking part. 

Jay Heiler, Quayle's spokesman, told Fox News that Politico's inclusion of the congressman in the scenes at the beach were totally inaccurate. 

He said people were leaving the dinner that night at different times and Quayle didn't go to the beach afterward. 

"Ben never witnessed (Yoder) in the water or any inappropriate behavior at any time," he said, adding that Quayle was not "engaged in heavy drinking." 

Heiler claimed Quayle's GOP primary opponent -- Rep. Dave Schweikert -- was the one trying to push this story out. 

Schweikert, though, put out a statement claiming Quayle had embarrassed "both the institution of Congress and Arizona with his completely inappropriate behavior that calls into question yet again his fitness to be in Congress." 

"I am disappointed, but not surprised by Ben Quayle's behavior in Israel," he said. 

Quayle's wife Tiffany, though, also claimed the Quayle family did not partake in the antics in the water despite the Politico report. 

"Ben and I and our daughter Evie were there together that evening in the Holy Land, although I was eight and a half months pregnant with her," she said. "We were neither party nor witness to any of the inappropriate behavior described in the article, nor were we a part of, or aware of any inquiry. We did return to Arizona with some water from the Sea of Galilee to baptize Evie after she was born." 

The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus is said to have walked on water. 

Yoder, meanwhile, has apologized for his role that night. 

He told the Kansas City Star he feels "incredibly remorseful that I have caused embarrassment to my constituents and I have caused folks who believe in me to be disappointed." 

According to the original report, the lawmakers who participated were rebuked last year by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- the most senior Republican on the trip and the most senior Jewish lawmaker in Congress.