Explicit Barton image raises possibility of ‘revenge porn’

(CNN) — After a sexually explicit photo of Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton surfaced this week on an anonymous Twitter account, the congressman — one of the most senior members of the House of Representatives — is raising the possibility that he’s the victim of “revenge porn,” a criminal act in Texas.

The anonymous tweet, circulated this week on social media, included a nude image of the congressman — which he does not deny is legitimate.

Sarah Dodd of Dodd Communications, who is helping Barton respond to the image, confirmed that the image is of him and on Wednesday the Congressman apologized for not using “better judgment” while separated from his wife and in consensual relationships with women.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” Barton said in a statement first reported by The Texas Tribune. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

But Dodd told CNN that Barton did not release the image himself and does not know who did.

“It’s really a violation of his privacy,” she said.

Related Content: Texas Congressman Joe Barton apologizes for nude photo

Wednesday evening, an unnamed woman came forward to The Washington Post, telling the newspaper that Barton sent her lewd photos, videos and messages when they had two sexual encounters over the course of five years.

In a 2015 phone call, Barton allegedly confronted the woman over her communications with other women, including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent, the Post reported.

The woman shared that secretly recorded phone call with the paper and, according to the Post, in that call, he warned her against using the explicit images he had sent her, in a way that would negatively affect his career — vowing that he would go to the Capitol Hill police over her actions.

The woman told the Post she took that phone call as a threat, and she never had any intention to use the materials to retaliate against Barton.

Barton, in a statement released through a spokesman, says it was to stop her from publicly releasing the images as “revenge porn.” Revenge porn — when sexually explicit images are posted online without consent — was outlawed in Texas in 2015.

“The Dallas Morning News has identified a potential crime against me and the transcript referenced in the Washington Post may be evidence,” he said. “This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship. When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.”

CNN has not independently confirmed the woman’s account, nor independently viewed the videos or message.

“I was in it for the politics connection,” the woman said of their relationship, in The Washington Post.

“I was kind of unwittingly drawn into it with him because of just the amazement of having a connection to a congressman,” she said, according to the Post.

Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas House delegation, had announced plans to seek re-election to Congress earlier this month. Dodd said that Barton “is not resigning.”

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that the Wisconsin Republican had spoken to Barton, adding, “We will keep those conversations between the two of them.”

She declined to elaborate on the specifics of their exchange.

Dodd said that Barton is using her firm to handle this matter rather than his congressional office because “it’s the holiday weekend” and there have been “a lot of calls” about the image and he needed the “extra help.”

Dodd would not comment as to whether Barton expects other images to surface.

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