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House Speaker resigns from his position, Todd Richardson replaces Diehl

The Missouri House has elected Majority Leader Todd Richardson to take over the chamber’s top spot following the resignation of House Speaker John Diehl. Richardson was elected unanimously Friday by Republicans and Democrats.

He was sworn into the office shortly after Diehl resigned Friday, following through on an announcement Diehl had made a day earlier. Diehl has acknowledged exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a college freshman serving as a Capitol intern.

Diehl apologized again to members Friday morning and received a standing ovation from some members. Others refused to stand.

Those who spoke in his favor called Richardson a man of integrity. Richardson says he hopes the House can get right back to work passing bills.

Richardson addressed the media Thursday night, saying, he’s “interested in reviewing what the intern policy is.”

Diehl also released his statement Thursday afternoon saying, “I’m not going to further jeopardize what we have accomplished this year and what can be accomplished in the future. Therefore, I will be resigning the position of Speaker of the House and the office of State Representative in a way that allows for an orderly transition.”

The Speaker released the statement 24 hours after The Kansas City Star published an article showing sexually charged text messages exchanged between Diehl and a 19-year-old Capitol intern.

The Speaker admitted the allegations in a statement yesterday saying, “I take full responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry to those I let down. I apologize for the poor judgment I displayed that put me and those closest to me in this situation. I also regret that the woman has been dragged into this situation. The buck stops here. I ask for forgiveness. I will begin immediately working to restore the trust of those closest to me, and getting back to the important work that is required in the final days of session.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch identifies the intern as 19-year-old Katie Graham, who issued a statement Thursday night in response to the allegations.

The statement reads, “I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me during this difficult time. Your support means a lot. This is extremely difficult for both families, and I hope everyone can begin the healing process. I strongly support the Missouri Capitol internship program, and hope it remains a positive experience for other students in the future.”

Gov. Nixon said Thursday, “Missourians deserve elected officials who reflect their values and comport themselves to the highest standards of integrity. Rep. John Diehl’s resignation from the position of speaker and state representative is an appropriate and necessary step.”

Diehl is not the first Missouri Speaker of the House to face scandal.

Former Republican Speaker of the House Rod Jetton was charged in 2009 with felony assault on a woman. He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.

The longest serving Missouri House Speaker was Democrat Bob Griffin who served from 1981 until 1995, but in 1998 Griffin was convicted of federal corruption charges. His sentence was commuted by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

After the Diehl resignation, Republicans control the Missouri House 116-44 with one independent and two vacancies.

Lawmakers face a 6 p.m. Friday deadline to pass legislation this year.

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