Congressman Jeff Denham named in skinny dipping scandal

FRESNO, California

The members of the Congressional delegation, including Republican Jeff Denham had a photo opportunity to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The supposed "fact finding mission" it wasn't all official business. Later at a hotel along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, after dinner and drinks, Denham and the others went for a swim. Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas has apologized to his constituents for swimming naked. Witnesses said the others had some clothing and some members of Congress even went in the water fully dressed. We're not sure what Denham was wearing.

In a statement issued late Monday, Denham said, "In August 2011, I had the privilege of visiting Israel with AIEF for an excellent educational trip. During some down time, my wife and I were lucky to have the chance to swim in the Sea of Galilee in a completely appropriate manner, something we had planned ahead of time. I am honored to have had the chance to participate in this trip and look forward to continuing to work with AIEF on their important issues."

The incident has become an embarrassment to the party leaders who were on the trip. ABC 30 Political and Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi said it could hurt Denham who is on the ballot in November.

Capozzi explained, "Unfortunately, he's there with the group, he's going to be tied into this, I can see political commercials coming out tying him into what happened in in Israel and the skinny dipping event."

Denham's Democratic opponent in the race for the 10th Congressional District is former NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez. He's called on Denham to apologize.

The Sea of Galilee is where Christians believe Jesus walked on water and performed other miracles. Pastor Jim Franklin of the Cornerstone Church is a staunch supporter of Israel, and has been to the Sea of Galilee. He says there's nothing sacrilegious about swimming there.

Pastor Franklin said, "I don't think there's anything supernatural, or holy about the lake, some great things happened there in the ministry of Jesus, but again, it's just a place where people gather, and resorts there, it's a beautiful part, but not a holy shrine."

But as to skinny dipping there, Franklin said, "Well, I don't know if I want to comment on that aspect of it."

Capozzi also believes the incident reflects poorly on the Republican Congressional leaders who were also on the trip.

"It's going to hurt Kevin McCarthy, it's going to hurt Eric Cantor and they are in the leadership," Capozzi said. "The fact that somebody does a stupid act like this, it affects everyone and unfortunately for the Republican's it was a totally Republican group."

Actually, swimming nude in the sea is illegal, and Israeli authorities say they could press charges against Congressman Yoder, even one year later, if somebody files a complaint.

Denham has served just one term in Congress from the 19th District. He's running for election in the newly drawn 10th District, which runs from Modesto north to Tracy. He's opposed by Democrat Jose Hernandez.

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