"I am confident if that little greasy reporter had not done what he did my husband would be alive right now," Rebecca Johnson told The Today Show

By Adam Carlson and Steve Helling
December 15, 2017 08:53 AM
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The widow of a Kentucky state lawmaker who fatally shot himself earlier this week not long after being publicly accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl continues to speak out about her husband’s death.

Appearing on The Today Show on Friday morning, Rebecca Johnson claimed husband Dan Johnson, a first-term Republican state representative, had been the victim of biased reporting that — in her view — led to his death.

“I am confident if that little greasy reporter had not done what he did, my husband would be alive right now,” Rebecca said.

On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé that alleged sexual misconduct by the lawmaker. According to the report, Dan allegedly woke his daughter’s 17-year-old friend Maranda Richmond early on Jan. 1, 2013, following a New Year’s Eve party, and kissed and groped her.

He denied Richmond’s accusation at a Tuesday news conference and was never charged in connection with it, though it was previously reported to police.

In calling for Dan’s resignation, however, the chair of the state’s Republican Party described the KCIR report as “extensively sourced,” and it included corroboration of the allegation by the accuser’s family as well as social media messages between her and Dan.

In KCIR’s story, Richmond recalled how Dan allegedly forced himself on her and how, even after he had left, she was scared he would return.

“Every little sound that I heard I was terrified that it was his door opening up and he was coming back out,” she said.

In an ensuing Facebook exchange days later, Richmond confronted Dan about what she said he had done, writing in a message to him: “What you did was beyond mean, it was evil. … I never thought something like that would happen to me, especially by someone like you.”

He did not reply.

“I’ve coped with it,” Richmond, now 21, told KCIR. “I know that it happened to me. And the main thing I can do is get it out there so that people know and that it doesn’t happen to anybody else. That’s all I want. I just don’t want somebody else to go through this.”

“This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit,” Dan told reporters on Tuesday, noting he would not resign. “These are unfounded accusations, totally.”

“I don’t want to blast this girl; I have a lot of compassion for her,” he said. “I’m very sorrowful that she’s in this dark place in her life.”

Officials with Louisville Public Media, whose Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published the reporting about Dan’s sexual assault allegation, said in a statement before Rebecca’s Today appearance that they were “deeply sad” about his suicide.

“Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions,” LPM President Michael Skoler said.

“As part of our process, we reached out to Representative Johnson numerous times over the course of a seven-month investigation. He declined requests to talk about our findings.”

On Today on Friday, Rebecca Johnson slammed that reaction.

“I’m going to be nice, but that’s b——,” she said, adding, “These guys do not represent our values, so how could they even be fair?”

As her husband did, she also dismissed the molestation accusation, calling it “unfounded.”

Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson on Tuesday
Timothy D. Easley/AP/Shutterstock

Rebecca’s Today interview is not the first time she has spoken about her husband’s suicide.

“I Lost the LOVE of MY Life tonight, He was a Gift to ALL who knew him,” she wrote early Thursday on Facebook.

Dan was “Always Encouraging, Helping others, Giving All he had to give and bringing Joy and Laughter to all he met,” Rebecca wrote.

Her post — which was reviewed by PEOPLE — is no longer publicly available and a message left with her was not returned.

On Friday, her voice choking up, she again shared her grief: “My children will not have their father, my grandchildren are not going to have their grandfather.”

She has reportedly announced her intention to run for his now-vacant legislature seat.

In a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday, she said, “Dan is gone but the story of his life is far from over.”