WASHINGTON — One of Pennsylvania's most critical congressional races was rocked Friday as Republican candidate Marty Nothstein had to publicly confront a sexual misconduct investigation from an alleged incident about 18 years ago.
Nothstein, of Lehigh County, denied that he did anything wrong. He said that an anonymous tipster raised the accusations as a politically motivated smear, and that the two alleged victims had signed sworn affidavits refuting them, though he did not make those affidavits public.
"I want to say to the voters in this district: These are false accusations planted just days after I began my candidacy. The presumed victims themselves deny such a thing happened. It's time to end this sort of politics," Nothstein said at a news conference. "The facts in this case are clearly on my side. The truth here is our friend."
Nothstein is a former Olympic gold medalist in cycling who is running in a Lehigh Valley district considered one of the most competitive in Pennsylvania. Forecasters had given Democrat Susan Wild a slight edge before Friday's report of the accusations in the Allentown Morning Call.
The seat, held by Republican Charlie Dent until he resigned earlier this year, is one of national Democrats' top targets as they seek to gain control of the House. While serious at any time, accusations of sexual misconduct have become even more explosive amid the recent national spotlight on abuse and harassment.
According to the Morning Call, Nothstein was placed on unpaid leave from his job as executive director of the Lehigh Valley velodrome in February, shortly after the organization learned of the accusations.
Nothstein said Friday that he was removed by the velodrome board before it determined the validity of the claims. The Morning Call reported that it could not determine what the accusation entailed, whether the investigation is continuing, or whether Nothstein had been cleared.
Nothstein and velodrome officials publicly ended their relationship this month. Nothstein said Thursday he received no financial settlement from the velodrome.
Nothstein and his attorney, William Chadwick, said law enforcement in Lehigh County had examined the accusations and found them to be without merit.
The anonymous source raised concerns in October, shortly after the campaign for Congress began, according to Nothstein and Chadwick. The misconduct allegedly happened around 2000. Nothstein and his lawyer said they learned of it from the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an arm of the U.S. Olympic Committee that investigates misconduct accusations.
To explain why it was not making the affidavits public, Nothstein's campaign said the two women valued their privacy and did not want to be dragged into a political fight. Nothstein said he knows both of the alleged victims from the cycling world.
Asked how he could know there are only two alleged victims, Chadwick said the Center for SafeSport investigator had told him he spoke with the women in the case, and the women told Nothstein's camp they had been contacted.
Nothstein painted the accusations as dirty politics, saying the tipster who started the investigation had pointed reporters to the probe.
Wild, in a statement, said, "These are serious allegations involving a partially taxpayer-funded organization where a suspension, investigation, and termination were made. There are clearly questions to be answered, and I hope that the full facts of this incident are made available to the public in a timely and thorough manner."
Chadwick said the Center for SafeSport was dragging out the investigation and is leaving Nothstein "dangling." He said Nothstein offered to meet with investigators but was turned down.