Morning Mirror: Farenthold’s Ex-Flack Puts His Anxiety About Those Damaging Ducky PJ’s Behind Him And Brings Film To DC

Betsy Rothstein | Reporter

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Pol’s ex-flack picks up the pieces of a bad experience and brings a film fest to D.C. 

Michael Rekola has an inescapable claim to fame.

He’s the flack who was brought in to rehabilitate ex-Rep. Blake Farenthold‘s (R-Texas) messy image in 2015. The married congressman settled a lawsuit with a female communications director for gender discrimination and allegedly sexually harassing her.

“I was brought on with an explicit mandate to create positive press,” Rekola told The Mirror. “I was told we’re going to have a few dark press hits over the next few months. I knew about the pajamas. I was completely in the dark about the [sexual harassment allegations]. I thought he was a typical Texas type congressman with a flair in his personality.”

Farenthold had a flair all right. The details are pretty raunchy. They lawmaker purportedly spoke to his female aide about a threesome and waning sex life at home. Sexual fantasies. Wet dreams. The 55-year-old perv also allegedly gave her the opportunity to show him her nipples. He used $85K in Treasury funds to make it all go away. This was also after he partied with a scantily clad woman while wearing ducky pajamas. Needless to say, the 2010 photo went viral.

Come on, who doesn’t have a pair of those? (Besides no one under five.) Farenthold denied any wrongdoing. He resigned from Congress in April 2018.

This week, Rekola is bringing a festival — Capitol Hill Film Classic — to Washington. This is the second one he has organized in two years. Next year, he hopes to elevate the platform to a non-profit. For now, there will be four categories of film — international, first-time filmmaker, local DMV bracket and American film. There will be famous for D.C. judges that include Mark McKinnon (Showtime’s The Circus), Politico Playbook hound Daniel Lippman, Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin‘s Instagram, um, savvy wife, Louise Linton, an actress and philanthropist, Cameron Gilreath Normand, of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Chad Michael Smith, a local award-winning filmmaker.

Rekola sees himself as a renegade for Capitol Hill aides who have been treated like dirt. He’s an open book about the anxiety and depression that emerged from his nine months working for Farenthold and the professional help he sought after working for the butterball, scandal-tarred congressman who would email him at all hours of the day and night with an avalanche of demands. The aide recalled daily vomiting.

He believes no congressional aide should put up with the treatment he endured — he wants them to know you can speak up, you can quit and you can move on to bigger, brighter things. “I didn’t want anyone to feel alone,” he said. “I want other staffers to know that if you’re being bullied or harassed, you can actually come forward.”

The ending to Rekola’s time working for Farenthold was like a scene out of Survivor and something that is perhaps worthy of its own feature film.

“I myself eventually started becoming very distressed because he would often be reactionary toward me if bad press came out, which was largely due to his own undoing,” he told me. “I went down to Texas, and that’s when I fell and collapsed due to stress about trying to rehabilitate a congressman’s image. He eventually made a blue and extremely off-hand comment about my then-fiancé two weeks before my wedding. I put in my two weeks and left.”

That “blue” comment, as reported by CNN, was this: “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.”

A friend of The Mirror remarked, “Who would blow Blake married or single?”

I had no response for her.

Rekola’s passion for film began when he worked as an intern for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He also worked as a personal press secretary for then-Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and for Zuckerberg.us, Mark Zuckerberg‘s first non-profit in D.C.

These days, the former Capitol Hill aide says he doesn’t have nightmares about Farenthold. But he does have anxiety about email overload and still seeks help for it.

Like any good filmmaker, he’s got quirks. He says he wants to be a good husband and father. He and his spouse welcomed a baby girl into the world this year. He spent nine months convincing his wife and her doctors to let him help deliver their child. “Doctors could do the head and I could do the neck down,” he said, explaining that his wife was in labor for 40 hours but that the delivery only took four hours.

(He explains he’s from a small farm town in Massachusetts.)

The festival attracts films from all over the world. This year, they reeled in 165 films that included submissions from Italy and Austria.

The film fest will be at Miracle Theater on Barracks Row Thursday. The $40 tickets can be purchased here.

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