Update, 6:30 p.m. --- Congressman Tom Reed was answering questions all Monday following a Politico report that named him as one of a few GOP Congressional Representatives who went swimming in the Sea of Galilee last year.
The trip was funded by a pro-Israel advocacy group and included freshman members of Congress, members of their family, as well as staffers. Members of the GOP House leadership including Rep. Eric Cantor the Majority Leader were also in attendance.
"I understand where we are as members of Congress we're held, we should be held to a higher standard and I understand that but at the end of the day it was my wife and I who went swimming in the Sea of Galilee and I think this will die down and we'll get back to the issues of the day and that's the most important thing,” Rep. Reed (R – Corning) told 13WHAM News Monday afternoon in a phone conversation.
Reed was wearing shorts and a golf shirt and his wife Jean was similarly clothed when they went into the water. Reed said he did not witness Rep. Yoder swimming in the nude, instead stating that there were twenty or twenty-five people in the water at the time.
Reed was asked if he or his wife witnessed anything that they would deem offensive or questionable given her presence.
“No I mean we've talked about it, no,” Reed replied. “I would say what we experienced was just that after a long day making the decision to go swimming with a large group of people and now obviously we're dealing with the scrutiny that is occurring now but I'm not aware of anything and I don't think she is either.”
Reed also questioned the release of this report more than year after the trip and at a time when campaigns are just now picking up.
Democrat Nate Shingawa of Ithaca is challenging Reed in November’s election and released the following statement on his website:
“These lawmakers had the privilege of a free trip to Israel to learn about its rich history, religious traditions, and present challenges, but their behavior was irresponsible and disrespectful to those who consider the Sea of Galilee a holy place. We must be able to trust our elected officials to behave appropriately while representing our district in Washington and our country while overseas.”