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US congressman apologises for affair with ex-wife of Islamic State leader

Van Taylor planned to run for third term in US House of Representatives before affair emerged
Republican Van Taylor listens as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testifies before the House Financial Services Committee, on 22 September 2020 (AFP)

A Texas Republican congressman has apologised and dropped his bid for re-election after it emerged he had an affair with a British woman who was once married to an Islamic State leader.

Van Taylor, who was planning on running for a third term in the US House of Representatives, wrote in an email to his supporters that “about a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world.

"I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life.”

A right-wing website revealed the infidelity on Sunday, just before a primary on Tuesday.

The British woman in question, Tania Joya, told the Dallas Morning News that she had met Taylor through her work with former jihadists. 

In 2020, The Guardian spoke to Joya, who explained that she had been married to John Georgelas, from Plano, Texas, in the early 2000s, who converted to Islam and took her and their children to Syria. 

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Joya wrote that it was only after she left Syria that she “found out that he had died, most likely during the US bombing in 2017".

“John played an essential part in establishing the caliphate and was a leading propagandist for [the] Islamic State, helping to groom other westerners,” she explained.

The Atlantic has called Joya “the first lady of ISIS”

But the nine-month affair between Taylor and Joya was published on a right-wing website, National File, and reshared by Breitbart after a third candidate, Suzanne Harp, found out about the affair and sent a journalist to interview Joya.

Harp attacked Taylor as the news came out, saying it was “shocking… disturbing and unbecoming of a sitting US representative".

Harp ended up with just over a fifth of the vote, which was insufficient to make the runoff. 

Taylor conceded a runoff to Republican rival Keith Self.