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Gov. Haslam says DesJarlais should weigh effectiveness

10:25 AM, Nov 20, 2012   |    comments
U.S. Representative Scott Desjarlais, The Tennessean
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By Chas Sisk, The Tennessean

Gov. Bill Haslam thinks U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais ought to weigh whether he can continue to be effective in Congress, but the governor has not been part of any "official" conversations about asking him to resign, he said Monday.

"I think the congressman's decision is, can I effectively represent the people who elected me?" Haslam told reporters after a public appearance in Nashville. "It's not my call. It's his decision."

Criticism of DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has sharpened since a Marion County court released official transcripts from DesJarlais' divorce proceedings that contradicted his account of what happened after a patient he had slept with told him she was pregnant with his child.

DesJarlais said in October that he was not aware that a telephone conversation he had with the woman was recorded and that he had used "strong rhetoric" to get her to admit that she was not really pregnant.

But the patient testified in 2001 that she actually was pregnant, though she did not in the end have a child by DesJarlais. DesJarlais testified that he and his wife had recorded the conversation together.

The transcripts also showed that the pro-life congressman had backed two abortions by his ex-wife before their marriage in 1995: once for medical reasons and once because they were having a difficult time in their relationship.

He 'misled voters'

Since the transcripts' release Thursday, former Cracker Barrel executive Forrest Shoaf has said he may take on DesJarlais in the 2014 primary if he attempts to run for a third term. Meanwhile, Weston Wamp, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleishmann for his seat in August, told a Chattanooga television station that DesJarlais had "clearly misled voters" during the campaign.

Lloyd Daugherty, chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union, said before the transcripts' release that DesJarlais should step down. But a spokesman for DesJarlais said Monday that the congressman will not resign and does plan to be sworn in for a second term in January.

Haslam chose his words carefully when asked whether there has been discussion within the Republican Party about whether DesJarlais should step down.

"I haven't been a part of or heard any official discussions like that," Haslam said.

Haslam said he would not personally call for DesJarlais' resignation because he had not read the 665-page transcripts.

"As the governor of Tennessee, I'm not sure that falls into my line of responsibility," Haslam said. "In the end, it comes back to he has a decision to make."

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