TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas congressman’s 10-second naked plunge into the sea where the Bible says Jesus walked on water prompted apologies Monday from him, head-shaking from other Republicans and the kind of international attention that no politician wants.
Rep. Kevin Yoder is all but certain to keep his seat despite any embarrassment arising from last year’s incident in Israel because Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate against him. But the freshman Republican acknowledged many of his constituents are wondering what he was thinking when he took his “spontaneous” skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee in August 2011.
Other lawmakers on the trip also went into the water at what’s considered a holy site for many Christians, and Yoder said their actions earned them a rebuke from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. But Politico reported Sunday that Yoder was the only one who wore no clothes.
“It’s certainly not an incident that I’m proud of,” Yoder said. “It is something that was obviously a mistake on my part, and I want folks in the district to know that I’m apologetic for it.”
The tabloid press in Britain and the U.S. pounced on the story, with the New York Daily News blaring online, “NUDES fLASH!” and describing Yoder as a “skinny-dipping pol.”
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, criticized Yoder’s behavior during an interview with a New Hampshire television station.
“I think it’s reprehensible,” Romney told WMUR-TV. “I think it’s another terrible mistake by individuals.”
Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon called Yoder’s behavior “inexcusable” and said if the incident had occurred in Kansas, he would be forced to resign. She later issued a statement calling for him to step down.
“I’m astonished these people think they can go on these junkets like this and no one will know what they do,” Wagnon said.
Kansas GOP Chairwoman Amanda Adkins, citing the 36-year-old congressman’s repeated apologies, said the incident shouldn’t overshadow his work representing a district centered on the state’s portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Another Kansas Republican, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said, he believed “something stupid occurred, and I think from time to time people do stupid things.”
U.S. House records show that at least 22 Republican congressmen and staff members were on the eight-day trip to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charity whose mission includes educating politicians about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The group’s schedule included meetings with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and more than two dozen other events.
The swimming occurred after an Aug. 18, 2011, dinner at a restaurant. Yoder said it was dark and members of the party jumped into the Sea of Galilee individually, not as a group. Yoder said he and his wife, Brooke, who was with him, had wine with dinner, but “alcohol did not play a role.”
“It was a spontaneous moment where other members of Congress were jumping in,” he said. “I made the mistake of diving in. I was in for about 10 seconds and got back out.”
Swimming in the lake is permitted but public nudity is not allowed, according to Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. He said no official complaint had been made against Yoder, but it was possible he could still be charged even a year later.
“If that kind of incident takes place and someone makes an official compliant, we’ll investigate,” Rosenfeld said in Jerusalem.
Arizona Rep. Ben Quayle and his wife, Tiffany, were on the trip too. She issued a statement saying they did not participate in nor witness “any of the inappropriate behavior.” She also noted she was more than eight months pregnant at the time.
Yoder’s sole opponent in the upcoming general election is Libertarian Joel Balam, of Overland Park. Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said Democrats’ call for him to resign was “absurd.”
Yoder served in the Kansas House from 2003 through 2010 and was chairman of its Appropriations Committee.
In February 2009, he was cited by the Kansas Highway Patrol for speeding and refusing to take a breath test following an early-morning traffic stop on a state highway in the Lawrence area. He later pleaded guilty to refusing to take the test and paid a $90 fine.
The traffic stop briefly caused ruffles during his successful 2010 run for Congress, but Yoder’s campaign said he’d refused to take the breath test because he’d passed another field sobriety test and wasn’t driving under the influence.
Associated Press writers Blake Sobczak in Jerusalem, Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kan., Jim Drinkard in Washington and Norma Love in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past