At first, the story of Ohio state Rep. Wes Goodman (R) sounded all too familiar, if a bit antiquated. The conservative, anti-gay, married-to-a-woman lawmaker had been caught pursuing sexual encounters and interactions with other men and was asked to resign. But it turns out that at least one of those interactions may not have been consensual. Worse, a powerful conservative — the head of an anti-LGBTQ “Christian values” organization — helped cover it up.
The initial allegation against Goodman, who was previously seen as a conservative rising star, was that, several months ago, he’d had an “inappropriate interaction” with someone in his legislative office. According to Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R), who asked Goodman to resign, the interaction in question was consensual and did not constitute harassment. Last Wednesday, Goodman resigned and apologized.
“We all bring our own struggles and our own trials into public life,” he said in a statement. “That has been true for me, and I sincerely regret that my actions and choices have kept me from serving my constituents and our state in a way that reflects the best ideals of public service.”
But subsequent reporting has demonstrated that Goodman’s indiscretions extend beyond the fact he was cheating on his wife with men while advocating against gay rights.
According to emails and documents obtained by the Washington Post, Goodman allegedly sexually assaulted a young man in 2015. He was staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. for a donor conference for his employer at the time, the Council for National Policy (CNP), a somewhat-secretive umbrella organization for prominent conservative leaders from across the country. Goodman, then 31, allegedly pressured an 18-year-old man to come party with them — chastising him by saying he “had a vagina” and making sarcastic remarks about him “being like a woman” for not wanting to tag along. Later that evening, the young man recounted, “Wes pushed me to come to his room,” offering to let him share the bed.
The young man claimed that he awoke around 4 a.m. to discover Goodman pulling down his zipper. He fled the room, explaining, “I was shaken, dazed, confused and very upset.”
These accounts are taken from a statement the young man sent at the time to Tony Perkins, who serves as president of CNP, although he’s perhaps better known as president of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Perkins oversaw the handling of the incident after the teen’s stepfather, also a member of the CNP, complained.
“Trust me… this will not be ignored nor swept aside,” Perkins wrote in response. “It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.”
“Prudence” apparently did not involve contacting any legal authorities or finding any justice for the victim. He did collect statements — Goodman claimed in his written statement that he’d simply woken up at 8 a.m. and the young man was gone.
A letter Perkins sent Goodman two months after the incident in December 2015 — after Goodman had already declared he was running for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, against Perkins’ wishes — offers several revelations about what transpired at that point.
According to the letter, Perkins had been aware of “other similar incidents” and “past behavior” involving Goodman prior to the incident at the CNP conference. Because of this, he had urged Goodman not to enter the Ohio House race and pursue therapy and counseling instead.
The language in Perkins’ letter strongly implies that Goodman may have been involved in some form of anti-gay conversion therapy and that Perkins believed this would effectively remedy what had happened. Entering the race, Perkins warned him, “could compete and even eclipse the focus that is needed for you to successfully pursue spiritual, mental, and physical restoration. While you have admitted and taken responsibility for your behavior, you have only begun the process of restoration.”
According to the letter, it was only after Goodman had declared his intent to run for office that Perkins suspended his membership with CNP.
“As I explained, going forward so soon, without some distance from your past behavior and a track record of recovery, carries great risk for you and for those who are supporting you,” Perkins wrote. “I will continue to pray for you and will be more than willing to continue our conversations as you continue on this journey to spiritual and emotional wholeness. However, because of the nature of the incident, the vulnerability to you, others, and the conservative movement, I regret that I am going to have to suspend your membership in the Council for National Policy.”
Perkins also wrote that he was “obligated” to tell other CNP members about the incident, but it’s unclear that he ever did, though at least one member of the CNP executive committee asked for his campaign donation to be refunded because of Goodman’s actions.
This appears to be the extent of Perkins’ response to the sexual assault allegations.
In the days since Goodman’s resignation from office and the Washington Post’s reporting, Cleveland.com has additionally reported that Goodman allegedly used his position to pursue sexual exchanges with “young men he met through conservative circles who were too intimidated to publicly complain.” One Ohio conservative organizer told the outlet that Goodman would allegedly “target college kids who wanted to have him as a mentor and were scared to report his sexual advances because they didn’t want to damage their own careers.”
Neither Perkins, nor any members of the CNP, responded to the Post’s questions about the 2015 incident. The Post had also reached out to Goodman for comment before he resigned, making it unclear what incident had actually precipitated Speaker Rosenberger’s resignation request.
Goodman has previously advocated against marriage equality for same-sex couples. On his campaign website, which has since been wiped, he described himself as supporting “the ideals of a loving father and mother, a committed natural marriage, and a caring community.”
UPDATE: Monday afternoon, the Independent Journal Review published accounts from 30 different sources, mostly young, college-aged men, who reported inappropriate advances Goodman made, including unwanted sexting, sending unwanted pictures of his body, and hot tub invitations. Goodman did not respond to the outlet’s request for comment. ThinkProgress has reached out for comment about the multiple allegations as well.
UPDATE: According to The Christian Post, neither Perkins nor FRC will be commenting on the matter.