Speaking publicly for the first time since a judge unsealed records from his divorce proceedings, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who has admitted to numerous affairs and who allegedly pressured a mistress to get an abortion, said he has no plans to resign from office.
In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, DesJarlais said he regretted his actions during his first marriage, and that he had exhibited, “very poor judgment.” Yet the congressman, who was just reelected this year as the allegations began to unfold, said he intended to still serve the voters who had propelled him back into office.
From the News Sentinel:
“I am human,” [DesJarlais] said during an hour-long interview with the News Sentinel. “I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public.”
Shortly before the November elections, reports surfaced that DesJarlais had engaged in multiple affairs while married to his first wife with patients at the Grandview Medical Center in Tennessee where he served as chief of staff. One woman alleged that she’d slept with and smoked pot with the congressman.
The story exploded in mid-October when The Huffington Post obtained a transcript of a call between Desjarlais—who presents himself as a family values, firmly anti-abortion politician—and one mistress in which Desjarlais allegedly pressured the woman to get an abortion. Desjarlais did not deny the allegations when presented with them, but he brushed them aside as politically motivated.
With Desjarlais reeling, the Tennessee Democratic Party successfully petitioned a judge to release the congressman’s decade-old divorce records, which confirmed many of the previously alleged details and also revealed that, in addition to the affairs with patients, Desjarlais had also cheated with co-workers and drug company representatives around the same time. Newly unsealed records from the 2001 divorce proceedings also revealed that the congressman had supported his then-wife’s decision to have two abortions despite his publicly stated opposition to abortion.
Desjarlais was elected to Congress in 2010 amid the Tea Party-backed wave that swung the House in favor of Republicans. In that election cycle, Democratic incumbent Lincoln Davis sought to use the rumors of Desjarlais’ messy divorce against him, though there was far less evidence at that time.
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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