Texas state Sen. Charles Schwertner accused of sending sexually explicit texts
AUSTIN — The University of Texas is investigating an allegation that Texas state Sen. Charles Schwertner sent sexually explicit text messages to a graduate student, including a picture of his genitals, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The Statesman reported that if the allegations against Schwertner, R-Georgetown, are deemed true, the university would consider banning him from campus.
Schwertner “categorically denies any knowledge of the accusations,” the report said. His spokesman also said he would be cooperating with the university and looks forward to making clear that “he played no part in the behavior described.”
According to the Statesman’s report, which is based on three unnamed senior UT officials, the alleged victim was a graduate student who met Schwertner on campus and told him she wanted to work for the Legislature. The two exchanged messages on LinkedIn before starting to text each other on their cellphones.
Schwertner allegedly texted the victim, “I just really want to f— you,” during an otherwise professional exchange. He also sent her an image of what appeared to be his genitals that was taken in the shower, the Statesman said, citing an official who had seen the exchange.
The student reported Schwertner to the school, prompting the investigation.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who serves as Senate President, issued a statement casting some blame at the University for leaking the story to the media.
“I am deeply concerned about the serious allegations reported in the Austin American-Statesman on September 25 regarding Sen. Charles Schwertner. I had no advance knowledge of the inquiry until I read about it in the news report,” he said in a statement. “I was also concerned yesterday to see that numerous University of Texas officials spoke to the media, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of a serious investigation. I am calling on the university to complete their inquiry in a professional manner, protecting the privacy rights of both parties. The Texas Senate is awaiting the conclusion of the investigation and expects a full report on this matter.”
Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon, is married to Belinda Schwertner, an obstetrician, according to a legislative biography in which he refers to himself as a “family man.” He has three sons.
He was first elected to the House in 2010 and to the Senate in 2012. As chairman of the Health and Human Services committee, he’s made a name for himself by carrying bills that seek to restrict abortion.
He faces Democrat Meg Walsh for re-election this November.
Walsh pounced on Wednesday linking Schwertner to allegations of sexual assault to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She noted that like “most Texas women, I have dealt with workplace harassment throughout my career.”
“Women must feel safe in schools, work, at home and the Texas Capitol. Women must believed and heard when these incidents occur, no matter if the offender is a boss, friend, U.S. Supreme Court nominee or Texas State Senator,” she said.
“If these allegations are true, Senator Schwertner is unfit to serve in office. These serious allegations deserve a full and thorough investigation,” she said.
The Texas Senate and the House adopted revised guidelines this year regarding sexual harassment training and reporting after several media reports revealed that women in the Legislature use a whisper network to discuss known harassers. The Daily Beast reported on multiple alleged instances of sexual misconduct by Sens. Borris Miles of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, both Democrats.
Miles remains in office, and Uresti resigned shortly before being sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of 11 felony fraud charges.
The policies for both chambers explain the behaviors that fall under the sexual harassment umbrella, provide a way for people to report them and require lawmakers and employees to complete in-person training.
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