Missouri House Speaker John Diehl Resigns after Sexting with 19-Year-Old Intern

May 14, 2015 07:00 PM EDT

Missouri House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl
House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (Photo: Missouri House of Representatives)

Missouri House Speaker John Diehl has resigned from the state Legislature after he admitted to sending text messages with sexual overtones to an intern. He stepped down with a written statement on Thursday.

According to Jason Hancock of the Kansas City Star, Diehl felt the heat from fellow Republicans after that paper reported that he exchanged text messages with sexual innuendo with a college freshman serving in a Capitol internship. The intern program has since been abruptly shut down.

"I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages. It was wrong and I am truly sorry," Diehl said in a statement. "Too often we hear leaders say they're sorry but are unwilling to accept the consequences."

Diehl acknowledged that he was "responsible" for his actions and "willing to face the consequences."

"For the good of my party, the caucus, and this state, I'm not going to further jeopardize what we have accomplished this year and what can be accomplished in the future," Diehl said. "Therefore, I will be resigning the position of Speaker of the House and the office of State Representative in a way that allows for an orderly transition."

Hancock reported that Diehl will also resign from his seat; he represented a suburban St. Louis district. In his statement, Diehl elaborated on his political legacy.

"I am proud to have led us to the largest Republican majority in state history, the first income tax cut in nearly one hundred years, and an override of the governor's veto of Missouri's congressional redistricting map," Diehl said.

According to a report in the Associated Press, Democratic lawmakers have tried to remove him from the speakership role. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, thought that Diehl's conduct was "clearly inappropriate and troubling."

"Diehl, 49, is an attorney who lives with his wife and three sons in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country," Associated Press wrote. "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."

Missouri Rep. Schott Fitzpatrick, a Republican, told the Associated Press that Diehl "made the right decision" to step down.

"It's a disappointing situation but we're going to figure things out," Fitzpatrick said.

According to the Associated Press, Missouri Rep. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter that the situation between Diehl and the intern was "an abuse of power and trust."

As for the former intern, the Associated Press reported that she referred questions to attorney Phil Willoughby, a former Democratic state House member.

"[She] is not interested in being at the center of any political debate concerning her internship or the workings of the state Capitol," Willoughby said.