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John Diehl: Intern-Sexting Missouri House Speaker Quits

By    |   Friday, 15 May 2015 05:40 AM

Disgraced Missouri House Speaker John Diehl is resigning from office after he was caught exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a college student serving as a legislative intern.

Diehl is stepping down both from his House speaker's position and from his elected job as a Republican representative from suburban St. Louis. Diehl's resignation is expected to become official Friday, when a successor can take over, reported The Associated Press.

His resignation announcement came a day after The Kansas City Star released a story accompanied by screenshots of what the newspaper said were electronic messages between Diehl and the intern. Some of the messages were sexually suggestive.

Former intern Katie Graham released a written statement after Diehl's resignation announcement thanking those who had reached out to her with support.

"This is extremely difficult for both families, and I hope everyone can begin the healing process," Graham said. "I strongly support the Missouri Capitol internship program, and hope it remains a positive experience for other students in the future."

Missouri Southern State University pulled Graham, a freshman, and its three other interns out of the Capitol this spring but has declined to go into details about the reason.

Diehl acknowledged "making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages" to the intern.

"I'm going to do what's best for the (House) body and the (Republican) caucus, and step aside out of my office," Diehl said in an interview with The Associated Press and reporters from three other media outlets.

"I made a mistake," Diehl said. "It's one that calls into question my ability to lead."

Diehl, 49, is an attorney who lives with his wife and three sons in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country. He first was elected in 2008 and had been chosen by colleagues as speaker in January to preside over one of the largest Republican legislative majorities in state history. He's known for his ability to work deals and to persuade rank-and-file members to stick together on the party's priorities.

Republican House members met Thursday night and picked House Majority Leader Todd Richardson to succeed Diehl. Richardson is expected to be elected by the full House on Friday morning. Legislators face a 6 p.m. CDT Friday deadline to pass legislation this year.

"I'm incredibly honored by the outpouring from my caucus, especially during what's been a difficult few days," Richardson said. "The House plans to get back to work."

Diehl's resignation adds to a tumultuous year in Missouri politics. In February, State Auditor Tom Schweich, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, fatally shot himself after alleging a top GOP official was leading a smear campaign against him. A month later, Schweich's spokesman also died in a suicide.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, described Diehl's resignation was "an appropriate and necessary step" and said he would work with the next speaker "to restore the public trust."

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, the top ranking Republican in Missouri, said Diehl "was an effective leader with significant accomplishments," but added, "He made the right decision today."

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Disgraced Missouri House Speaker John Diehl is resigning from office after he was caught exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a college student serving as a legislative intern.
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Friday, 15 May 2015 05:40 AM
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