Updated May 15 at 7:30 a.m.
Missouri House Speaker John Diehl said Thursday he will resign from public office. The announcement came one day after a Kansas City Star report that Diehl, R-Town and Country, had exchanged a series of sexually charged texts with a college freshman working at the Capitol through an internship program.
Hours after Diehl’s announcement, House Republicans gathered to pick a new House speaker, Todd Richardson of Joplin. Richardson, the majority floor leader, still must be voted into his new position.
Diehl issued an apology Wednesday afternoon. But, amid calls for his resignation by the Legislature’s Democratic minority and mounting criticism from his fellow Republicans, Diehl announced Thursday that he would relinquish both his role as speaker and his seat in the House.
Diehl, 49, has a wife and three sons. He works as an attorney in St. Louis for the law firm Husch Blackwell.
On Wednesday night, Diehl said texting the intern, a 19-year-old woman “was a stupid thing to do.” But he denied having a physical relationship with her.
In one of his texts, Diehl told the intern, “God I want you right now.” She replied, “I wish you could have me right now.”
In another, she sent a photo of herself in a bikini. Diehl responded, “Damn girl …”
The intern, Katie Graham, identified herself and released a statement on Thursday, according to a New York Times report. “This is extremely difficult for both families, and I hope everyone can begin the healing process,” the statement said.
That internship program was abruptly shuttered earlier this spring.
The text of Diehl’s resignation statement is below:
“In my time in the General Assembly, I’m proud of my long legislative legacy that was built upon being honest with members and doing what is in the best interest of our caucus and this body. I am proud to have led us to the largest Republican majority in state history, the first income tax cut in nearly one hundred years, and an override of the governor’s veto of Missouri’s congressional redistricting map.
“I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages. It was wrong and I am truly sorry. Too often we hear leaders say they’re sorry but are unwilling to accept the consequences. I understand that, as a leader, I am responsible for my actions and I am willing to face the consequences.
“I appreciate those who have stood beside me and the overwhelming number of caucus members that have offered continued support; but for the good of my party, the caucus, and this state, I’m not going to further jeopardize what we have accomplished this year and what can be accomplished in the future. Therefore, I will be resigning the position of Speaker of the House and the office of State Representative in a way that allows for an orderly transition.”
Update: May 15 at 7:30 a.m.
This story and its headline were updated to reflect new developments in the story, including the selection of a new House Speaker and the statement from the Capitol intern.