U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais said last week he has no plans to resign from Congress following revelations that he supported his ex-wife’s decision to abort two pregnancies during their marriage. DesJarlais, a staunch pro-life Republican who represents Tennessee’s 4th District, also told the Knoxville News Sentinel he regrets having past sexual relationships with a number of different women, including patients and coworkers.
“I am human,” DesJarlais, a physician before being elected to Congress in 2010, told the newspaper. “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.”
DesJarlais’ comments to the News Sentinel were the first he has made on the subject since the release of his 2001 divorce records last month that also substantiated earlier allegations by political opponents, who said he had urged a former patient and lover to get an abortion. The congressman has since said he did not believe the woman was pregnant as she claimed and he was attempting to expose her ruse.
Court records show that DesJarlais testified the first abortion with his ex-wife happened when she was on an experimental drug that created potential risks for the pregnancy. The congressman said the second abortion occurred while he and his wife were having relationship troubles.
DesJarlais said charges of hypocrisy for his previous support of abortion are unfounded because his views on the issue have since evolved.
“I guess as a physician, I was a fairly objective person,” he said of his past stand on abortion.
While the Tennessee Democratic Party has called on the Republican to give up his seat in Congress, top Republican leaders have not officially asked DesJarlais to resign. Gov. Bill Haslam told The (Nashville) Tennessean he thinks DesJarlais should decide if the revelations from his divorce transcripts have damaged his effectiveness in Congress.
“I think the congressman’s decision is, ‘can I effectively represent the people who elected me?’,” Haslam told reporters in Nashville. “It’s not my call. It’s his decision.”
Meanwhile, the son of a former congressman said last week he might challenge DesJarlais in the next Republican Primary for the seat. Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Chattanooga, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “It’s incredibly early, but I won’t rule anything out.”
Voters in the 4th District were not swayed by the damaging material leaked before a judge ruled that DesJarlais divorce records should be made public. DesJarlais easily won election to a second term on Nov. 6, defeating his Democratic opponent by a double-digit margin.
Tell us what you think. Should DesJarlais resign from Congress?
Send comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or email@example.com. Include your name, phone number and address for verification. We will print responses in the coming weeks.