At a press conference Wednesday night, embattled Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) refused to resign, saying he will instead take an extended leave of absence from Congress to enter in-patient treatment for alcohol addiction.
“I knew this day would come,” he said, adding that his struggles with substance abuse had continued on and off for years.
Radel said he would donate his congressional salary for the period he was away from Washington.
His voice cracking with emotion, Radel reflected on his life as an adopted son of Florida (he grew up in Ohio) and said his chief priority was rebuilding trust with the citizens of his district in southwest Florida.
“I hate the word constituents. What this is about is my friends, my family, and my neighbors,” Radel said. “I hope, like family, southwest Florida can forgive me for this.”
Questioned by the press about how he could rebuild Florida's trust, Radel said he would do so via his very public struggle to overcome his addiction.
“That's what I'm doing here tonight. I'm owning up to my actions. I am taking responsibility and I'm living it very publicly,” Radel said. “I am being held accountable for the decisions I've made in life.”
Radel said that his team of staffers would be able to represent his district during his absence.
Radel, a freshman representative who styled himself a “hip hop conservative,” was a rising star in the party before being caught in a sting operation by federal agents on Oct. 29.
On Wednesday morning, following a guilty plea in a D.C. court, Radel was sentenced to a year of supervised probation.
Earlier Wednesday, Radel's father told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans had urged Radel not to resign and said they would stand behind him. Although in his official statements, Boehner merely said the matter was between “Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”