Questions dog Coburn, who lashes back at "sleazy liberal dot-com"


Geraldine Sealey
September 16, 2004 11:05PM (UTC)

The fallout continues from Salon's story earlier this week on Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma obstetrician and right-wing GOP Senate candidate with a scandal in his past involving allegations of sterilizing a young woman without her consent and filing an apparently fraudulent Medicaid claim for the procedure. Yesterday, the scandal was at the center of the closely-contested Oklahoma Senate race between Coburn and Democrat Brad Carson -- a race that could ultimately determine control of the Senate.

Reacting to the Salon piece and subsequent stories in national and state publications, Coburn said he did have consent to perform the sterilization, saved the young woman's life in the process, and committed no fraud -- and that Salon, "a sleazy, liberal dot-com," is just trying to "trash his character."

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The woman says she did not give her consent to have her fallopian tubes tied when she was being treated for an ectopic pregnancy. Beyond the consent question, though, is why Coburn did not disclose the sterilization procedure when he filed Medicaid reimbursement claims. The procedure was not eligible for reimbursement if performed on a woman under the age of 21. Coburn's patient was 20.

"According to transcripts of a deposition Coburn gave under oath, he asked the woman to not talk about it," Tulsa World reports (sorry, no link). "'I said I did it anyway, and that she shouldn't talk about it because I did a procedure that was not recognized under Title 19 reimbursement,' Coburn said in the deposition."

" ... In a press conference in Tulsa on Wednesday, Coburn said there was no attempt to defraud Medicaid. 'What I would say is go find Medicaid fraud on me,' he said. 'You won't find it.'"

"He said no settlement was ever reached with the woman. She stopped pursuing the case."

The woman stopped pursuing the case, she tells Tulsa World, because of the treatment she says she received from defense lawyers. "She said she didn't refile the lawsuit because she had undergone three days in the witness chair, where she was called a 'slut' and other names, and didn't want to go through that again."

"The defense lawyers, she said, 'crucified me.'"

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So far, the scandal isn't deterring Coburn's conservative backers. The Club for Growth sent out an email to members in the last day calling Coburn, who considers the "gay agenda" the No. 1 threat to the nation, a "priority pick."

"Our very top priority for the Senate is Tom Coburn of Oklahoma," reads the email from Club for Growth's Stephen Moore. "We are urgently requesting that you donate to Coburn, because he is getting pummeled by his political opponents."

"For all the reasons that we love Tom, the Democrats (and many RINO Republicans) are terrified to have this anti-big government fire breather in Congress. Washington just loathes that rare politician who has courage, principles, and backbone."

"The newspapers in Oklahoma are slandering Tom Coburn almost daily (especially the left wing Tulsa World, which is on a single-minded mission to destroy Coburn)."

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" ... He will be a human vacuum cleaner, scooping up the pork and the expensive taxpayer-funded turkeys embedded in the spending bills. He will vote to shrink the Great Society Welfare State, not grow it, as so many Republicans did last year with Medicare."

" ... So, if you're like us, and you're sick and tired of Republicans who spend like Democrats, and Democrats who spend like drunken sailors (but with our money, not theirs), the best way to strike back is to help us get Tom Coburn elected to the Senate. We feel confident in saying that this is one of the best investments you can make for the future of our country."

[UPDATE: Sources in Oklahoma say Coburn canceled his public appearances today. Stay tuned.]

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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