Hours after he apologized to constituents and fellow Republicans urged him to reassess whether to run for re-election, Congressman Joe Barton, R-Arlington, said the U.S. Capitol Police will investigate why a former sexual partner of his shared a nude selfie and a lewd text the congressman sent.
“When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation… 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,” said Barton in a statement Wednesday night.
The story began to unravel on Wednesday. After several days of whispers, Barton was forced to confront a rumor that many in Congress had already heard.
"It was just becoming too hot, behind the scenes, in the delegation, in Congress. Everyone knew about it but no one touched it publicly,” said Abby Livingston, the Texas Tribune reporter who broke the story.
The nude selfie and accompanying text first appeared on a pro-President Trump Twitter account. The post has since been taken down. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday night that an obscene video of Barton also exists. The newspaper went on to report that the woman who received it is from Texas and recorded conversations with the congressman.
In the hours since, many now wonder whether Barton has a political future.
"Probably Monday or Tuesday his campaign would be doing some polling in the district trying to find out how damaging this is to his re-election both among Republican primary voters and in a general election,” said Matt Mackowiak, Potomac Strategy Group.
Barton’s first statement in response on Wednesday was an apology.
"While separated from my second wife, prior to divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry that I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down,” he wrote.
Barton, 68, represents Arlington and Ellis and Navarro counties. He is the longest serving Texan in Congress right now and coaches one of the congressional baseball teams.
"No one wants to see a political career end this way least of all probably him. So, I think the question he's going to have answer to himself over the next few days is does he believe he can get re-elected and does he want to go through the misery of what his re-election campaign will likely be,” added Mackowiak.
Nothing indicates Barton did anything illegal. Some agree that he is the victim.
"I think some people do feel sorry for him. This is something that was put on the Internet and one term that has been thrown around is revenge porn which is usually associated with women who have been violated on-line. It's certainly spurring an interesting conversation,” added Livingston.
Potential Republican challengers are also polling to determine how vulnerable Barton is now.
Anyone can file to run for office up until December 11.