Congressman Tim Murphy bills himself as one of the most rabid opponents of abortion in the House. But the congressman from the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh was exposed as a full-blown hypocrite when it emerged that he’d advised his longtime mistress to get an abortion.
Murphy was already in deep doo-doo politically after being forced to admit his long-running affair with Shannon Edwards, a psychologist who is young enough to be his daughter; Edwards is 32, Murphy is 65. But the revelation that he’d encouraged her to have an abortion made him a dead man walking politically.
By Wednesday afternoon, Murphy had decided not to run for an eighth term in 2018. John Delano of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh broke the story; watch here.
But by Thursday afternoon, Murphy changed course and announced he would resign from the House on October 21. Delano broke this story as well; watch here.
On the surface, it may have appeared that Murphy simply decided he couldn’t heal his marriage and serve in Congress at the same time. But Politico reveals that Murphy was pushed out due to something more fundamental than just talking out of both sides of his mouth. It turns out that while the House Republican leadership was willing to tolerate having Murphy around for another 15 months after he admitted to being a hypocrite, they weren’t willing to tolerate reports about the toxic atmosphere in his congressional office.
The seed for Murphy’s ultimate downfall is buried in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s story about Murphy’s now-infamous text exchange with Edwards, in which Edwards blasted Murphy for portraying himself as a chest-beating abortion foe while suggesting that she get an abortion. The Post-Gazette also got its hands on a six-page memo Murphy received from his chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, on June 8 warning him that his “hostile, erratic, unstable, angry, and abusive behavior,” “inability to communicate without expressions of rage, criticisms, or insults,” “unreasonable” expectations, and haphazard decision-making has made life in his office unbearable.
Mosychuk claimed that Murphy not only flagrantly violated his own guidelines regarding harassment, but also the Congressional Accountability Act. In particular, she cited an incident a week prior to the memo in which Murphy was preparing for a town hall meeting in his district. Reportedly, Murphy verbally abused his newly hired legislative director at his district office and blasted the work he’d spent a weekend preparing as “useless.” After dumping several documents on the floor, he then demanded to see those very documents.
On their way to the meeting, Murphy reportedly bombarded his staffers with abusive text messages. Later, while driving to another event during a “torrential downpour,” Murphy kept looking at his iPad, causing him to go all over the road.
Reportedly, Murphy’s office has experienced near-100 percent turnover since 2016, which is almost unheard of for a congressional office. Mosychuk estimated that over 100 staffers have left during Murphy’s 14-plus years in Congress, and the atmosphere at his office makes it impossible to retain anyone. She warned Murphy that unless there is “a complete cessation” of this behavior, she would have no choice but to seek recourse “outside this office.”
That memo prompted a number of former staffers to come forward with their own stories. Many of them also claimed that Mosychuk, who began as Murphy’s legislative director in 2003 before becoming chief of staff in 2004, was even more of a bully than Murphy. According to some of these aides, Mosychuk used white noise machines to keep constituents from hearing her scream and curse at staffers. She frequently dismissed their work as “worthless” and “garbage,” and forced staffers who had fallen out of favor to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Nick Rodondo, Murphy’s former district director, told Marty Griffin of KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh that the congressional office was “one of the worst places I have ever worked in my life,” describing life there as a steady diet of “screaming” and “intimidation.” He scoffed at Mosychuk’s memo, believing that she wrote it to “cover her butt.” A number of Rodondo’s former colleagues are of the same mind. One of them said that it actually described some of Mosychuk’s behavior, and claimed that the chief of staff was “literally terrorizing people.” Many of them have taken years to regain their self-confidence, and some of them have needed therapy to help them do so.
Within a short time, the reports about Murphy’s office environment got so serious that a House Ethics Committee investigation became a distinct possibility. It was at that point that senior Republican leaders called Murphy in and told–not asked–him to leave immediately.
Now here’s where this story gets hideous. According to Politico, the “systemic problems” described by former staffers have been an open secret on Capitol Hill for some time. A number of Murphy’s colleagues, as well as other congressional staffers, have sympathized with those who worked for Murphy. And yet, none of Murphy’s staffers felt safe reporting this behavior to the Office of Compliance, which oversees employment matters. They feared that any reports would get back to Murphy or Mosychuk, and their careers would be toast.
To put it in the most diplomatic possible terms, this is flat-out disgraceful. This sort of harassment and intimidation would not be acceptable in the private sector, and it must not be acceptable in the people’s house. If it was common knowledge that Murphy at the very least fostered an environment in which this sort of harassment and intimidation was even possible, why was it not nipped in the bud sooner?
Surely things haven’t gotten so partisan in Washington that Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, and the leaderships of both parties can’t come together and not only find out how this got so far out of hand, but take steps to make sure that there isn’t a next time for this. We need to come together, regardless of party, and demand nothing less. We should also demand that any lawmakers or aides knew about this and didn’t at least try to do something about it follow Murphy out the door.
(featured image courtesy U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)