BATON ROUGE, La. – Republicans kept their distance Tuesday from a Louisiana congressman who asked for forgiveness after a newspaper published a video it says shows him kissing a woman who isn’t his wife.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he was pleased U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister offered an apology. But Cantor declined to say whether he thought the Louisiana congressman should remain on the job, as the fall-out threatened McAllister’s November re-election bid.
McAllister spokeswoman Jennifer Dunagin said Tuesday that the woman in the video, Melissa Peacock, “voluntarily resigned effective yesterday” from the congressman’s staff.
McAllister apologized in a statement late Monday pledging “to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed” after the video surfaced.
The Republican congressman hasn’t returned calls from The Associated Press, and Dunagin didn’t answer questions about whether McAllister intended to continue his planned re-election bid. But in an interview with The News-Star, he said he’ll be on the November ballot “unless there is an outcry for me not to serve.”
The freshman lawmaker ran as a political outsider, noting he’d never been to Washington before he was elected to Congress. He relied on his own personal wealth and the national and local attention drawn to his election bid with an endorsement from the bearded men of the popular “Duck Dynasty” reality TV show who live in his Louisiana district. Willie Robertson, the star of the cable TV show and CEO of the multimillion dollar Duck Commander duck call and decoy enterprise, was McAllister’s guest in the House gallery for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
But McAllister also ran on a platform of faith and family, raising questions about whether McAllister’s apology will be enough to satisfy voters who supported his candidacy. The congressional election is Nov. 4.
Cantor said McAllister’s constituents deserved the apology. He said he would “reserve further judgment” on the burgeoning scandal.
The Ouachita Citizen newspaper posted what it said was Dec. 23 surveillance video from inside McAllister’s congressional office in Monroe, showing McAllister and a member of his staff kissing.
According to the LegiStorm, a website that tracks congressional salaries, Peacock joined McAllister’s staff shortly after his election in November, earning about $407 a week, or less than $22,000 a year. Peacock and her husband were contributors to McAllister’s campaign.
The surveillance video was filmed just a month after McAllister won a surprise landslide victory in a special November election to represent Louisiana’s 5th District, covering the northeastern and central regions of the state.
A political unknown only months before the campaign, McAllister managed to defeat the establishment candidate and presumed front-runner.
Jason Dore, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, wouldn’t answer questions about whether the McAllister should stay in office or resign.
“We’re certainly disappointed in the news about Congressman McAllister. His family and constituents definitely deserved an apology, so we’re glad he issued a statement. We’ve not had a chance to speak to the congressman. That will be the extent of our comments until we learn more about this situation,” Dore said in an email.
Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said the video could generate election competition for McAllister.
Associated Press reporter Eileen Putman contributed to this story from Washington.