The FBI is investigating an August 2011 trip to Israel made by a delegation of Republican congressmen after Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) admitted to jumping naked into the Sea of Galilee after a night of eating and drinking with fellow GOP lawmakers and staff.
The trip was paid for by the independent American Israel Educational Foundation, which is affiliated with AIPAC, a prominent pro-Israel advocacy group.
Among the other members of Congress on the trip were House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). While some members of Congress and their staff swam fully or partially clothed, Yoder is the only one to dive in au naturel, removing all of his clothes before entering the lake known to Christians (such as Yoder) as the place a certain Jew, central to their faith, miraculously walked on water.
“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,” Yoder said in a statement. “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.”
Though it is unclear if anything illegal actually took place, the FBI investigation is focused on whether any other behavior that may be deemed inappropriate occurred. According to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, public nudity is an offense. Although Rosenfeld said no official complaint had been made against Yoder, it is possible he could still be charged even a year later. Neither Cantor nor McCarthy participated in the late-night dive, with Cantor later reprimanding his GOP colleagues over the incident.
Yoder, 36 and married without children, was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2002 and wasreelected three times. He was sworn into the U.S. Congress representing Kansas’s 3rd congressional district on January 3, 2011.
Yoder admitted that he and his wife had wine with dinner before the incident but added, “Alcohol really played no role in the decision to go in. It was really a spontaneous moment with members at the Sea of Galilee, which is obviously a special place.”
Yoder had a brush with the law in 2009 when he was pulled over for speeding. He pled guilty to refusing a roadside preliminary Breathalyzer test following a 2:31AM traffic stop. He did, however, take a field sobriety test, which he passed. Yoder was allowed to drive himself home and the speeding charge was later dropped as part of a plea deal in which Yoder maintained his guilt for refusing the breath test and paid a $165 fine.
News of the midnight skinny-dipping shenanigans brought a swift response from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “This looks more like a scene out of ‘Animal House’ than a delegation of members of Congress representing America in Israel – one of our most important security partners,” said DCCC Communications Director Jesse Ferguson. “Republican leaders knew that these House Republicans’ behavior was inappropriate and wrong, but kept the FBI investigation under wraps for more than a year. What other inappropriate, embarrassing behavior have Republican members of Congress been engaged in that Republican Leaders are keeping under wraps? It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of this House of Scandal given how many House Republicans face FBI investigations.”
House Speaker John Boehner’s office considers the case closed, with spokesman Kevin Smith saying that Cantor “handled the situation swiftly and appropriately.”
Yoder is up for reelection in November with no Democrat challenging him.