Missouri House Speaker resigns after scandal involving Southern student

Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned from office May 14 following an article in the Kansas City Star revealed sexually suggestive text messages between him and a 19 year old intern from Missouri Southern State University.

“I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages,” said Diehl in a written statement. “It was wrong and I am truly sorry.”

According to a report by the Kansas City Star, Todd Richardson, who currently serves as the majority floor leader, has been selected by Republicans as the next House speaker. He will be given the power only after a House vote favors him, however.

Katie Graham, the intern involved in the scandal, was part of a legislative internship program that sent four Southern students to live and intern in Jefferson City. In a statement distributed through her attorney Philip Willoughby on Thursday night, Graham expressed her hope for the program to successfully continue despite the scandal.

“I strongly support the Missouri Capitol internship program, and hope it remains a positive experience for other students in the future,” said Graham.

The program, which is conducted through the Spralding Center for Law and Politics at Southern, sends students to Jefferson City to work every spring. According to the Missouri Southern website, the program has been deemed one of the best programs in the state by those it serves.

University officials were made aware of an incident involving the interns in late April and withdrew the students from the capital shortly thereafter. A statement from Crystal Lemmons, associate vice president for academic affairs, announced that the interns had been reassigned to other responsibilities for the duration of the semester, but additional information could not be released at that time due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).