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Watchdog group files ethics complaint against DesJarlais

7:31 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
U.S. Representative Scott Desjarlais, The Tennessean
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By PAUL C. BARTON, Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A watchdog group Tuesday filed a complaint against Rep. Scott DesJarlais with the Office of Congressional Ethics, accusing him of "blatantly lying" about a telephone conversation with a former patient and mistress.

In making its filing, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington referred to the October release of a transcript of a telephone call that DesJarlais, a licensed physician in Tennessee since 1993, had with a female patient more than 10 years ago in which he urged her to have abortion, concerned she might be pregnant with his child.

DesJarlais said he had no knowledge that the call had been recorded.

But another transcript, that of his 2001 divorce proceedings, shows DesJarlais acknowledged recording the call in an effort to discern whether the mistress and patient was indeed pregnant, CREW said as part of a 44-page complaint.

The divorce transcript also shows the woman testified under oath she was pregnant "and was fairly confident that DesJarlais was the father," CREW said.

But she has refused to disclose the outcome of the pregnancy, the group added.

DesJarlais, R-Jasper, has claimed the woman was not pregnant and did not have an abortion.

"It is clear Rep. DesJarlais lied to ensure his telling of events aligns with his current anti-abortion stance. Apparently, his views have 'evolved' to the point where he now believes abortions should be illegal for everyone except the women with whom he sleeps," Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said in a statement.

Most of the congressman's conduct "while reprehensible," is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Office of Congressional Ethics or the House Ethics Committee, CREW said.

But Sloan said DesJarlais statements this fall about his past actions are grounds for an investigation.

In response to the ethics complaint, DesJarlais aide Robert Jameson said, "This is clearly nothing more than a shallow publicity stunt by a far-left organization owned by George Soros and used to further his liberal agenda."

Soros, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is known as a patron of liberal groups.
Sloan, in a later phone interview, acknowledged her organization receives funding from the Soros-backed Open Society Institute.

But she added, "George Soros is not on my speed dial" and had nothing to do with the complaint.

Sloan described DesJarlais as "a two-bit congressman from Tennessee" and said the House Ethics Committee, at a minimum, should find him deserving of an official reprimand.

"I think he should resign," Sloan said, adding that House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio should show he's serious about not tolerating unethical conduct within Republican ranks.
"It's hard to find someone more reprehensible."

The CREW complaint comes as questions about his political future continue to swirl around DesJarlais, a tea party Republican who came to Congress on a pro-life stance in 2010 and was re-elected to a second term earlier this month.

In addition to the situation involving the female patient, the 2001 divorce transcript shows DesJarlais and his former wife, Susan, made a mutual decision to have two abortions.

It also shows he acknowledged having affairs with eight women during the time when his divorce was pending.

DesJarlais also prescribed pain killers to patient with whom he was having an affair and engaged in sexual relationships with three co-workers as well as a representative of a pharmaceutical company.

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Contact Paul C. Barton at pbarton@gannett.com

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