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The Skinny on GOP Trip to the Holy Land

Tracy Bloom
Assistant Editor
Tracy Bloom left broadcast news to study at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. There she eventually became deputy editor of Neon Tommy, the most-trafficked online-only college website in…
Tracy Bloom

Despite a stodgy reputation, Republicans are capable of a little craziness. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was moved to scold a group of GOP congressmen who drank and went swimming — at least one of them in the nude — during a “fact-finding” trip to Israel last year.

The FBI later looked into the incident, but has refused to comment on its probe.

Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas is the lawmaker who stripped naked for a dip in the Sea of Galilee. He released the following statement: “After dinner I 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,” he said. “It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

According to Yoder’s chief of staff, the congressman and his staff were never interviewed by the FBI.

At least 20 other people took part in the late-night swim, including freshman Republican congressmen Steve Southerland of Florida, Tom Reed and Michael Grimm of New York, Ben Quayle of Arizona and Jeff Denham of California.

The trip, by the way, was paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, which is related to the pro-Israel advocacy group AIPAC.

Politico:

Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the lake said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters. Others said they were simply cooling off after a long day. Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.

The Sea of Galilee, a Christian holy site, is where Jesus is said in the Bible to have walked on water.

The FBI looked into whether any inappropriate behavior occurred, but the interviews do not appear to have resulted in any formal allegations of wrongdoing.

But Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was the senior most GOP lawmaker in Israel on the trip, was so upset about the antics that he rebuked the 30 lawmakers the morning after the Aug. 18, 2011, incident, saying they were distracting from the mission of the trip.

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— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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