Missouri House Speaker John Diehl said Thursday that he is resigning from the Legislature after acknowledging that he exchanged sexually charged text messages with a college student serving as a Capitol intern.
Diehl said he is stepping down both from his House speaker's position and from his elected job as a Republican representative from suburban St. Louis. He said the resignation will take effect as soon as an orderly transition can be arranged, which could be Friday.
Diehl acknowledged "making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages" to the intern, who no longer works at the Capitol.
"I'm going to do what's best for the (House) body and the (Republican) caucus, and step aside out of my office," Diehl said in an interview with The Associated Press and reporters from three other media outlets.
"I made a mistake," Diehl said. "It's one that calls into question my ability to lead."
His resignation announcement came a day after The Kansas City Star published a story accompanied by screenshots of what the newspaper said were electronic messages between Diehl and the intern. Some of the messages were sexually suggestive.
Former intern Katie Graham released a written statement after Diehl's resignation announcement thanking those who had reached out to her with support.
"This is extremely difficult for both families, and I hope everyone can begin the healing process," Graham said. "I strongly support the Missouri Capitol internship program, and hope it remains a positive experience for other students in the future."
Missouri Southern State University pulled Graham, a freshman, and its three other interns out of the Capitol this spring but has declined to go into details about the reason. Graham was an intern for another House member.
Diehl, 49, is an attorney who lives with his wife and three sons in the St. Louis suburb of Town and Country. He first was elected in 2008 and had been chosen by colleagues as speaker in January to preside over one of the largest Republican legislative majorities in state history. He's known for his ability to work deals and to persuade rank-and-file members to stick together on the party's priorities.