Former GOP senator admits to son kept secret for decades

Pete Domenici admitted to fathering a son outside of his marriage over 30 years ago

Topics: Pete Domenici, Republicans, New Mexico, affair, Senate, Nevada,

Former Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico, confessed Wednesday to having a son, the result of an affair, who has been kept a secret for over 30 years.

In a statement made to the Albuquerque Journal, Domenici said: ”The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she.” But, Domenici said, he believed someone else might soon make the story public: “Rather than have others breach this privacy, I have decided to make this statement. These circumstances now compel me to reveal this situation.”

Domenici was chairman of the Senate Budget Committee before stepping down from his seat in 2008, after six terms, for health reasons. He also noted in his statement that his wife (and eight children) have “been aware of these events for several months.”

His son, Adam Paul Laxalt, was born in 1978, and is a former officer of the Navy and current lawyer. Adam Laxalt’s mother, Michelle Laxalt, works as a lobbyist, and is herself the daughter of former Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., who also chaired the Republican National Committee.

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In a statement, Michelle Laxalt wrote: ”Recently information has come to me that this sacred situation might be twisted … and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents.” She described the affair as “one night’s mistake led to pregnancy.”

As the Washington Post points out, Domenici is hardly the first U.S. politician to have a secret child:

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who is unmarried, recently disclosed that he had a 24-year-old daughter whom he learned about three years ago. A 2008 drunken driving incident led former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) to acknowledge his long-running affair and out-of-wedlock daughter. Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the mixed-race daughter Strom Thurmond kept secret for 70 years, died earlier this month. She revealed her parentage only after her father, a former senator from South Carolina, died in 2003.

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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