Republican state Rep. Dan Johnson of Mt. Washington Tuesday blamed “political hacks” and the media for what he claims are false allegations he molested a 17-year-old female member of his church and defiantly refused to resign from the Kentucky General Assembly.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Monday published a story quoting the young woman who accused the Bullitt County representative of sexually molesting her in 2012 at a New Year’s Eve party while she was a member of the Heart of Fire Church where Johnson is the preacher.
Standing in front of about a dozen family members and supporters at the church Tuesday, Johnson said “the allegations have no merit” and said he “absolutely” will seek re-election next fall. Collectively, they began the press conference by singing a Christmas Carole, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” before Johnson addressed reporters.
Johnson blamed everyone from National Public Radio to the woman he defeated for the 49th House District in 2016, Linda Belcher, for the allegations.
The KCIR story reported the woman claimed a drunken Johnson knelt over her after he returned from a bar while she and Johnson’s daughter slept on a couch in his home. She told KCIR she had respected Johnson and was friends with his daughter and had previously slept over at their house.
But this time, according to the young woman, Johnson kissed her and touched her inappropriately despite her protestations. The story reported that the Louisville Metro Police Department failed to fully investigate the charges.
Following the story’s publication, Republican Party Chairman Mac Brown, Republican House leaders and Democrats called for Johnson to resign. RPK and Brown in 2016 also asked Johnson to step aside as a candidate after he posted what appeared to be racially motivated messages on Facebook.
“Following (Monday’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,” Brown said in a statement on Monday.
Also on Monday, Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne and other members of the Republican leadership team called on Johnson to resign following the “shocking” revelations in the KCIR story.
But Johnson, who sometimes calls himself “the pope” or “the bishop,” said he’d done nothing wrong, is “very sorrowful (the accuser) is in this dark place in her life,” and “absolutely” intends to run for re-election because “the people of Bullitt County elected me.”
Tuesday, Johnson claimed that he counseled the young woman on “some issues” he wouldn’t reveal and that he had not molested her on the night in question. Instead, Johnson claimed, he may have spoken “harshly” to her and his daughter prompting an apology on Facebook a couple of days later in which he said he’d been “drugged” while at a bar.
He said he had “compassion for this girl, for that family” and the charges are prompted by political opponents like Belcher and those who oppose his positions on pension reform, abortion and medical marijuana and his support for President Donald Trump. He called himself a “hero” to those who support his positions.
Johnson said the accusations are assaults “on all real people” and on Bullitt County, “a wonderful place.” He said outsiders “look down on” Bullitt County because it’s 97 percent white and has a low percentage of residents with college degrees.
“What makes that a bad community?” Johnson asked.
The allegations come against a backdrop of sexual assault allegations against Trump and prominent male figures in politics, the media and the entertainment business. They also follow the resignation as Speaker by Jeff Hoover who was one of four lawmakers to sign a confidential settlement of sexual harassment by a legislative aide.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin, appearing on Terry Meiners’ WHAS-840 AM Radio show, said if the allegations in the KCIR story are true, they are “reprehensible” and Johnson should resign.
But Bevin said he doesn’t know for certain the allegations in the story are true and complained of “two standards” by those calling for Johnson to resign because they haven’t called for the resignation of Hoover and the other Republican House members who signed the confidential settlement.
“If you have to exchange money for silence . . . you should not be making policy,” Bevin said. “You’ve compromised your moral authority, you’ve compromised your integrity.”
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.