Ethics watchdog files complaint against antiabortion GOPer

Scott DesJarlais, a Tea Party Republican from Tennessee, pressured his mistress to have an abortion

By Jillian Rayfield
Published November 28, 2012 2:01PM (EST)

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint against Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., on Tuesday, asking Congress to investigate whether he lied when confronted about having a relationship with a patient.

DesJarlais, who easily won his reelection campaign, is an antiabortion Tea Partyer, and has been embroiled in a controversy after the Huffington Post obtained a transcript of a phone call from 2000 in which DesJarlais pressured his mistress, also a patient, to have an abortion.

HuffPo reports:

After The Huffington Post reported the transcript of that recording -- which was included in filings from DesJarlais' three-year divorce proceeding -- the congressman declared that it was made without his knowledge. However, the later release of his full trial transcript showed that DesJarlais was fully involved in the recording.

DesJarlais has since said that he didn't remember making the recording. "One of the biggest mistakes I made was I commented to the press before I had the opportunity to go back and read a transcript that was 13, 14 years old," DesJarlais told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "It was never my intention to mislead anyone, and had I read this, I don't think the inaccuracies that occurred would have taken place."

DesJarlais also acknowledged affairs with two patients, three co-workers and a drug company representative during his time as chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn.

Transcripts from his divorce proceedings also reveal that DesJarlais and his wife decided she should have two abortions during the course of their marriage. DesJarlais’ ex-wife also accused him of “dry firing a gun outside the Plaintiff’s locked bedroom door, admission of suicidal ideation, holding a gun in his mouth for three hours, an incident of physical intimidation at the hospital; and previous threatening behavior … i.e. shoving, tripping, pushing down, etc.”

"It was never a loaded gun. It was never a suicide attempt," DesJarlais testified of the incident. "It was an attention-seeking act."

CREW, the ethics watchdog, says that DesJarlais also lied when he said that the patient was not pregnant and did not have an abortion, despite her testimony during his divorce that disputes this claim.

“Apparently, Rep. DesJarlais suffered a convenient memory block until a transcript from his divorce refreshed his recollection after he was reelected,” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. “Taping a conversation with a mistress doesn’t seem like something you would easily forget, but maybe now he will argue his memory was clouded by the pot he was smoking at the time, or he confused that mistress with one of his many others.”

CREW had also previously filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health.

Robert Jameson, a spokesman for DesJarlais, called the complaint a "shallow publicity stunt by a far-left organization owned by George Soros and used to further his liberal agenda."

DesJarlais, whose campaign website says that "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life,"  has since explained that his position on abortion has evolved since the divorce. "[Abortion] was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect. Going back, if I could change and do things differently, certainly I would."

Jillian Rayfield

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

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Abortion Congress Crew Republicans Scott Desjarlais Tea Party Tennessee