By Chas Sisk, The Tennessean
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais appears to have been damaged by
revelations that he pressed a patient with whom he'd had a relationship
to go forward with an abortion, his opponent's campaign said Wednesday morning.
The portion of voters in the 4th Congressional District who said they
have a unfavorable opinion of DesJarlais has doubled since the summer,
and his standing among women is "in freefall," a pollster for Democratic
state Sen. Eric Stewart told reporters.
DesJarlais leads Stewart by 5 percentage points, Andrew Myers of
Myers Research & Strategic Services said. The claim is based on a
poll of 400 likely voters taken Sunday and Monday. The poll has a margin
of error of 4.9 percent.
The shift in opinion was most likely caused by the news about DesJarlais, Myers said.
"What else would explain it?" he said.
The poll results come as Stewart is
trying to build enthusiasm for his campaign as it enters the
homestretch. Text messages to supporters sent at 11 a.m. touted the poll
as showing the race in a "dead heat." The message linked recipients to a
page where they could donate from their cell phones.
Campaign filings this week show DesJarlais with nearly $600,000 in
cash on hand, seven times more than the $85,000 Stewart had in the bank.
DesJarlais has responded to the situation with the following letter:
Open Letter to My Supporters
You have probably seen the recent media coverage regarding details of my divorce from over a decade ago. I had genuinely hoped this election would be about my record in Congress - not a 12 year old divorce.
Unfortunately, my opponent is making the same types of accusations Lincoln Davis used in 2010 when he ran what was described as the nastiest campaign in the nation in an attempt to dominate the headlines.
I know that many of you were disappointed to hear the news regarding allegations of a relationship I had while separated during my divorce proceedings. I am deeply sorry for that. But what was reported in the media was not only inaccurate, it doesn't even begin to tell the whole story.
First, there was never any pregnancy and there was no abortion. Second, my ex-wife and I had been separated for quite some time before this incident. There was an agreement in our separation that both she and I could see other people while finalizing the divorce. To say that I had a mistress or that I had an affair is inaccurate. Third, the media wrongly reported that I recorded the conversation myself. I was recorded unknowingly and without my consent.
Here is what is true. While legally separated from my wife, I was involved with a woman who I had briefly treated for a foot injury. The relationship was completely mutual. After approximately four months after we had last seen each other, she told me she was pregnant. I won't go into details out of respect for those involved, but I had several reliable reasons to believe this was false. I had a conversation with this woman over the phone that was recorded without my knowledge. During this conversation I was incredibly frustrated. As such, I used rather strong rhetoric in hopes that it would lead to her admitting the truth - that there was no pregnancy.
I appreciate that this was an imprudent approach to this situation and I'm not proud of it. In retrospect I should have dealt with these matters in a more diplomatic fashion.
There is no question that I had a very long and very difficult divorce. In fact, it seems almost as if I've never run against another candidate - only a 12 year old divorce. That being said, I understand that I am an elected official and therefore am subject to public scrutiny. But I also have a family. I think that often gets overlooked by those who resort to these sorts of smear tactics.
Through grace and redemption, God has truly given me a second chance. I have had an incredible marriage to my wife Amy of ten years and have been blessed with an opportunity to raise three wonderful children. I have a strong pro-life record in Congress and history of fighting for values important to Tennesseans. I hope you will judge me on these facts because that is who I am.
It speaks volumes that my opponent and his political mentor Lincoln Davis would gleefully exploit this private and personal issue for political gain. I suppose they must be confident that they are completely without sin.
I am not trying to justify my actions or say that I am without fault. But I am not the hypocrite my opponents and some liberal media outlets are portraying me as.
I hope that you will continue to fight with me for issues important to the people of Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District. We face big problems and we need big solutions - not desperate personal attacks.
Thank you for your support and understanding, and I stand ready to speak with you personally and answer any questions you may have.