A Republican congressman’s late night skinny dip in Israel’s Sea of Galilee in the company of other members and congressional staff during an official visit came under FBI scrutiny last year, it was disclosed Sunday.
The trip was organized and funded by the American Israel Education Fund, a sister organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which takes dozens of lawmakers yearly on fully-paid tours of the Holy Land.
According to Politico, which broke the story on Sunday, the events took place in August of 2011 during a visit of 30 GOP lawmakers. The members’ itinerary included meetings with the Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart Salam Fayyad, and tours along Israel borders. After a long day of travelling, the group, including staffers and some family members, had dinner at a posh restaurant on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Following several rounds of drinks, the atmosphere around the table became merrier, and some participants decided to take a dip in the water. Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder took his clothes off and jumped in. Other members and staffers remained dressed, or partially dressed, for their nightly swim.
The next morning, the group faced a harsh dress down from Majority Leader Eric Cantor who was also on the trip but had left the dinner earlier that night. Cantor, according to the report, rebuked his fellow Republicans and told them their actions detracted from the trip’s mission.
On returning to Washington, members learned the ordeal was not over. The FBI questioned lawmakers and their staff about the episode to learn if the events involved any illegal behavior. According to Politico, the FBI investigations did not reveal any wrongdoing, although the agency would not provide any details about the probe.
A spokesman for the American Israel Education Fund told Politico that the group “had not been contacted by any government agency” regarding the trip but stressed that the organization would cooperate fully with any inquiry.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.