|U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)|
Yoder, 36, admitted he dove into the sea "without a swimsuit."
Christians consider the Sea of Galilee a holy site; it is where the Bible says Jesus walked on water.
"Part of the reason I made that decision at that moment was there was really nobody in the vicinity who could see me," he said. "I dove in, hopped right back out, put my clothes on and, regardless, that was still not the behavior people expected out of their congressman."
He said it was dark out with visibility limited to only a few feet, and said he was in the water for about 10 seconds before climbing out.
Politico said Yoder was the only person to remove all his clothes. His wife, Brooke, accompanied him on the trip, but she did not swim.
The trip, said to have been open only to those 18 and over, was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, according to a database of travel records maintained by Legistorm.com. The trip lasted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21 last year, the record show, and cost the foundation $20,087 for Yoder and his wife's travel, lodging, meals and other expenses.
The foundation, a charity, says its mission is to provide grants for educational programs and conferences and to "help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through first-hand experiences in Israel."
The foundation is connected with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is connected with many conservatives in Congress.The trip that included 20 Republican lawmakers and staff was led by House Majority Leader U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, who was livid over the incident. Cantor was not among the five lawmakers who went for the late night swim, which included U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, son of former Vice-President Dan Quayle. Quayle is facing a difficult primary race this month against another incumbent Arizona congressman, David Schweikert. It is unclear why the story is just now surfacing less than three months before an election, but it could cost Yoder his re-election, and it could seal Quayle's defeat. Quayle was quick to deny any improper conduct through a statement released by his wife:
"Ben and I and our daughter Evie were there together that evening in the Holy Land, although I was eight and a half months pregnant with her," Tiffany Quayle said in a written statement provided by Quayle's congressional office. "We were neither party nor witness to any of the inappropriate behavior described in the article, nor were we a part of, or aware of any inquiry. We did return to Arizona with some water from the Sea of Galilee to baptize Evie after she was born."