A top Republican lawmaker stepped down from his leadership post but rejected a call from Gov. Scott Walker to resign from his Assembly seat after it was reported the legislator had made racist and sexist comments to his colleagues.
Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, resigned from his position as Assembly assistant majority leader Wednesday, following a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that offensive comments he made to three female colleagues had triggered an internal review. The women on the receiving ends of his comments said they have accepted Brooks' apology and would like to move past the issue.
"Rep. Brooks’ comments were out of line in July and we made our views immediately known to him and the Assembly Chief Clerk. We were satisfied with the Assembly response this summer and have fully accepted Rep. Brooks’ apology," said Reps. Jessie Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek; Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton; and Cindi Duchow, R-Pewaukee, in a statement. "While we respect his decision to resign his leadership position and appreciate the seriousness with which he takes the issue, it is beyond what we expected or even wanted. We have put the incident behind us; we would ask kindly ask others to do the same."
According to the Journal Sentinel report, Brooks singled out Rodriguez at a restaurant after an Assembly Republican caucus event in Wisconsin Dells in July. Brooks said he would buy drinks for everyone "except Jessie because she's Hispanic," then proceeded to do just that, the newspaper reported.
The Journal Sentinel also reported that Brooks made sexual comments to Loudenbeck and Duchow at the event. Brooks stopped when Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, intervened, and the subjects of his comments later reported the incident to Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Brooks, in a statement given to the Journal Sentinel, said he regretted making "stupid comments" while he'd been drinking, and promised to adhere to Assembly policies designed to preserve a safe workplace in the Capitol.
In a statement released by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, members of the Assembly GOP leadership team said they condemned Brooks' behavior and believed the issue had been appropriately resolved when it was reported. However, they accepted Brooks' resignation from his leadership post. The position will stay vacant until after the November elections.
Before Brooks resigned from the leadership position, the governor called for an even stronger punishment.
"Representative Brooks' comments are offensive and disrespectful. They have no place in our society and are inconsistent with the high standards that must be held by those in public office. He should resign from office, period," Walker said on Twitter.
Democrats then questioned why Wisconsin Republicans have not withdrawn their support from President Donald Trump or U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom have been accused of sexual misconduct.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, accused Republicans of applying a "double standard."
Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, pointed to a letter signed by Assembly Republicans earlier this month voicing support for Kavanaugh, who is going through the Senate confirmation process.
"We find no reason why anyone would stand in the way of another affirmative vote for this outstanding nominee," the letter, dated Sept. 5, reads.
The allegations against Kavanaugh were not made public until after the letter was sent. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on Thursday from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of assaulting her when they were both teenagers.