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By ANDREA AGARDY
Fourth District Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R- Jasper) was part of a group of American lawmakers who traveled to Israel last summer where Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder took his now-infamous naked swim in the Sea of Galilee.
According to a member of DesJarlais’ staff, although the first-term congressman attended the August 2011 dinner in the seaside town of Tiberias that preceded Yoder’s skinny-dip, he did not accompany the group to the shores.
“While the congressman was on the trip to Israel, reinforcing our nation’s relationship with this important ally, he was not involved in the incident in question,” said Robert Jameson, DesJarlais’ communications director.
Politico broke the story on Sunday, reporting that after a dinner that included alcohol, Yoder and many other members of the contingent went to the Sea of Galilee to wade in the freshwater lake. The sea has become a pilgrimage destination for many Christians who believe that is where Jesus walked on water. While Yoder did not swim alone, he was the only person to remove all his clothing before jumping in.
Yoder apologized for his actions, releasing a statement in which he said he, “followed some members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and, regrettably, I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.”
The incident sparked an investigation by the FBI, but no charges were filed. The GOP conducted its own probe of the incident that resulted in a reprimand of the 30 representatives who took the trip.
The group that included DesJarlais and Yoder, was actually one of three delegations of American lawmakers – many of whom are serving their first term – to visit Israel. In total 81 members of the House, 26 Democrats and 55 Republicans, took the trip, which was funded by the American Israel Education Foundation.
The newly drawn 4th Congressional District covers Franklin, Grundy and Moore counties, among others, and the portion of Tullahoma that lies in Franklin County.
DesJarlais is in a race to keep his seat against Belvidere Democrat Eric Stewart.
The News staff writer Ian Skotte contributed to this story.