It’s fair to say that America was shocked on Wednesday when a nude photo of conservative Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) graphically surfaced online. A purported sext message accompanied the explicit image, and Barton apologized to his constituents while emphasizing that he had “sexual relationships” with “mature adult women” following a divorce. The Washington Post has spoken to the anonymous woman who shared the image, along with, um, something else, which we will get to in a moment (you’d better sit down first). And the woman revealed that Barton threatened her with a Capitol Police report if she “expose[d] his behavior” by sharing what he sent her.
Well, not only did the woman share the lewd image and sext, but she also reportedly uploaded a 53-second video (which was self-recorded by Barton) that showed the congressman masturbating. The Post adds that InfoWars briefly published the clip before it disappeared. Oh boy.
The woman says that she and Barton shared 5 years of “encounters and contact” that began in 2011. She’s staying anonymous for fear of online threats and further claims to have spoken with other women who had the same arrangement with him. The woman revealed that Barton threatened her in a 2015 phone call and shared a “secret recording” with the Post:
“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.”
After the lewd photo surfaced, the Dallas Morning News noted that the woman can’t be charged under any federal law for sharing the intimate materials. Yet a Texas “revenge porn law” (enacted in 2015) prohibits the nonconsensual disclosure of materials “depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct.” So, she may be on the hook there (and maybe for secretly recording his threat).
Barton has issued a statement to the Washington Post, in which he claims that the Capitol Hill Police have contacted him (?), and he’s pursuing the matter:
“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.”
Barton again stressed the “consensual” nature of his relationship with the woman. The congressman also says that she retaliated after he broke up with her by threatening to share the intimate materials. What. A. Mess.