RELATED STORY: Republican lawmaker denies sexual assault accusation and rejects GOP’s call to resign
The Republican Party of Kentucky called on a GOP member of the Kentucky House of Representatives to resign from office in the wake of a news report Monday that he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl in 2012.
“Last October, after local media reports about reprehensible and racist posts on his Facebook page, we asked then-candidate Dan Johnson to drop out of the race for state representative,” said Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Following today’s extensively sourced and documented story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, we once again find ourselves in a position where we must call for him to resign, this time, from the Kentucky General Assembly.”
Johnson also has been asked to step down by Republican leaders in the House.
“The allegations made public in today’s media accounts are shocking,” the four members of House Republican Leadership said in a written statement. “The victim’s statements, made on the record in her own name, are compelling and deeply troubling. Based on the information presented in this report, we are calling on Rep. Johnson to resign.”
On New Year’s Eve 2012, Johnson, who was elected to the state House in 2016, allegedly forcibly kissed, groped and used his finger to penetrate Maranda Richmond, then 17, despite her asking him to stop, according to a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Johnson, who goes by the nickname “Pope,” is the “bishop” of Heart of Fire Church in Louisville. He represents the 49th House District in a portion of Bullitt County.
Richmond, who belonged to the church at the time, told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that she saw Johnson as a “second Dad.”
Richmond went to police about the allegations in April 2013, according to KyCIR. After Richmond and her father, Cliff, failed to get Johnson to confess on tape, the Louisville Metro Police Department closed its case without ever interviewing Johnson, KyCIR reported.
Louisville police have since reopened the case, according to KyCIR.
“When credible, well-documented allegations surface it is imperative that they be taken seriously,” House Republican leaders said in their statement. “We hope the relevant law enforcement agencies took this matter seriously when it was initially investigated, and that follow-up steps are being taken to ensure nothing was missed that might materially change the course of the case.”
Richmond and Johnson could not be reached Monday for comment.
The allegations against Johnson make him the fifth Republican state lawmaker this year to be accused of sexual misconduct. In October, four GOP members of the Kentucky House of Representatives secretly settled a claim of sexual harassment made by a legislative employee.
House Republican leaders haven’t called on those lawmakers to resign, although state Rep. Jeff Hoover did resign his post as speaker of the House and the other three lawmakers were stripped of their posts as committee chairmen.
Gov. Matt Bevin, on the other hand, has called on all four members involved in the sexual harassment case to resign from office. But on Monday in the Capitol Rotunda, Bevin said he didn’t know anything about the allegations against Johnson.
“I don’t want to talk about all this nonsense. Gracious, let’s wait until we get all the facts,” he said. “You guys are like ricochet rabbits on this stuff.”
Bevin did reiterate his position that lawmakers in Frankfort should be held to a higher standard when it comes to inappropriate conduct.
“There is an expectation of a higher moral authority. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not. But the reality is, it has ever been thus,” he said. “There is a moral authority, there is an expectation of integrity, there is an expectation of following the law, there is an expectation of setting the standard of behavior.”
Later, Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the governor continues to believe that “any elected Kentucky official who has a sexual assault or harassment claim that has been settled, proven or admitted to be true, should resign.”
The Kentucky Democratic Party and House Democratic leadership also called on Johnson to resign.
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, Rep. Johnson should step down immediately,” said Mary Nishimuta, executive director for the Kentucky Democratic Party. “This is indicative of a corrupt culture in Frankfort that the Republican party continues to accept.”
Johnson is not new to controversy. While he was running for office in Bullitt County, Johnson was denounced by the Republican Party of Kentucky and was asked to step down after news reports that he posted racist images on his Facebook page.
“Dan Johnson’s comments and social media posts are outrageous and have no place in today’s political discourse,” state party chairman Mac Brown said in a written statement at the time. “They represent the rankest sort of prejudice present in our society and do not in any way, shape or form represent the views of the Republican Party of Kentucky or the many fine candidates representing us on the ballot this November.”
Johnson refused to step aside and ultimately won the election, defeating Democrat Linda Belcher by 156 votes.
Johnson co-sponsored a bill that Bevin signed into law earlier this year allowing schools to offer a Bible literacy course, and he recently pre-filed a bill for consideration in the legislative session that begins Jan. 2 that would require pornography blockers on all devices sold in Kentucky that can access the internet.