FBI Probes GOP Skinny-Dipping in Israel

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 20 2012 8:37 AM

Republican Lawmakers, the Sea of Galilee, Nudity!

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Arab-Israelis swim in the Sea of Galilee in Israel on Sept. 2, 2011.

Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

Politico with the story most likely to be making the rounds among congressional inboxes today:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff—and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses."
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The naked congressman? Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican. The others who kept their clothes on but nonetheless are said to have waded into the holy waters during the incident include: Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

It's unclear exactly how big of a scoop Politico has here. While the Beltway outlet is tagging it with the big old "exclusive" label (and sent out a breaking news alert hyping it last night), we should note that the FBI probe of last summer's incident doesn't appear to have gone much beyond asking a few questions, and the investigation didn't result in any formal allegations.

That said, the story involves lawmakers, alcohol, nudity, and the site where Jesus is said to have walked on water, so it clearly has all the ingredients needed to whet the appetite of anyone with a Twitter account. It also is the latest example of a congressman failing to realize that most Americans prefer their lawmakers to keep their clothes on (see: Weiner, Anthony; and Lee, Chris).

Yoder offered an apology in the form of a statement to Politico for its story, but his office says that the FBI never actually interviewed him or his staff about the late-night skinny dip:

"A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit," Yoder said. "It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize."

While the bold names named in the story aren't all that bold relative to the national conversation, two of the top House Republicans were on the American Israel Educational Foundation-funded trip: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), although neither man took part in the late-night dip. Cantor was so upset by the whole thing that he scolded the group the next morning, according to the report.

You can read the Politico story in its entirety here. Wondering what's so special about the Sea of Galilee? The Slatest has you covered with our first mini-explainer.