WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of Republican lawmakers and staff jumped into Israel‘s Sea of Galilee last year after a night of dining and drinking, and one freshman congressman swam naked, Republican aides confirmed late on Sunday.
The incident, first reported by Politico on Sunday, was investigated by the FBI and led Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to reprimand the 30 lawmakers on the privately funded trip.
Representative Kevin Yoder stripped naked before jumping into the Sea of Galilee after dining and drinking at a waterside restaurant in the town of Tiberias, Politico reported, citing more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed, while some lawmakers partially disrobed, Politico reported.
Two senior Republican aides who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the report’s accuracy. Yoder’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Politico quoted Yoder as saying in a statement about the incident that he and his wife, Brooke, joined some colleagues for dinner.
“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 in the statement.
“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,” the statement read.
The August 2011 trip was sponsored and paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, which is affiliated with AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel advocacy group.
Representatives Steve Southerland, Tom Reed, Ben Quayle, Jeff Denham and Michael Grimm were among the more than 20 lawmakers and staff that jumped into the Sea of Galilee, Politico said.
Senior aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy also went swimming in the freshwater lake, which is where Christians believe that Jesus walked on water.
Politico quoted sources as saying that neither Cantor nor McCarthy participated in the late-night dip and Cantor later rebuked his Republican colleagues over the incident.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Fred Barbash and Paul Simao)