HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – Republican Rep. Aaron Bernstine’s own party and state House democrats are calling for him to resign after a video surfaced allegedly showing him encouraging his 5-year-old son to smoke.
The House GOP released a statement Thursday saying Bernstine, who represents part of Lawrence, Beaver and Butler counties, needs to immediately resign for his alleged conduct.
“As parents and fellow legislators, we are disgusted by Rep. Bernstine’s conduct. In order to take the time necessary to focus on his family and repair his relationships, we call on Rep. Bernstine to immediately resign,” the statement reads.
Shortly after, the House Democratic leaders also joined Republicans’ call for Bernstine’s resignation.
“The people deserve to know the men and women they send to Harrisburg will behave in a manner worthy of the public’s trust,” the Democrats’ statement reads.
“As more and more of Representative Bernstine’s alleged inappropriate behavior around his children and the children of others comes to light, we share the disappointment and disgust of the Republican leaders and urge Representative Bernstine to do the right thing and heed the call of his party’s leaders.”
The Beaver County Times reports videos on his now-deleted Snapchat account show the politician’s hand holding a cigar in front of his son. He can be heard saying “hit it harder” and “breathe in” while someone in the background says “no.”
Other videos reported by the Beaver County Times show alleged inappropriate behavior with his son and other children.
Bernstine issued a statement to KDKA saying he — “like many parents” — has “made errors in judgement and taken jokes too far with my son and his friends.”
I vow to do better….. pic.twitter.com/TUnA4YvFAM
— Aaron Bernstine (@AaronBernstine) October 8, 2020
His statement reads in full:
“Like many parents, I have made errors in judgement and taken jokes too far with my son and his friends. None of those were made with malice or ill intent, and I deeply regret those decisions. My political opponents and their supporters are trying to exploit personal events during a private family vacation, while simultaneously trolling me on social media with manipulated claims about my conduct. The long-term damage done in publicly exploiting my child and his friends for political gain will far outlast the impact of these past moments of poor judgement. This last minute political driveby shooting is unfortunately the new norm today and it’s why good people don’t run for office. I’m not going to allow these political attacks to prevent me from continuing to work on behalf of the hard-working people of the 10th District.”
As House leadership called for his resignation, he shared a video on social media saying the videos were filmed during a private vacation with his son and his friends, along with some of their parents. He says they were “jokes that went way too far.”
He says he and his family are addressing it as a private matter.
“Over the next 26 days, I’m going to continue to work hard to gain your trust and work on the issues that matter for the people of the 10th legislative district,” he says.
Kolbe Cole, the Democratic candidate facing Bernstine, said the videos were “discouraging.”
“To have another adult that is charged to be a leader in our area act in that manner, it was really disheartening and discouraging,” Cole told KDKA.
Jonathan Peffer, an independent candidate, told KDKA’s Shelby Cassesse that he was “shocked and angry” when he saw the videos and immediately called for Bernstine’s resignation.
A representative for state House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said Rep. Bernstine has not been removed from any committees.