NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A freshman congressman running for re-election on a pro-life platform urged his pregnant mistress to get an abortion a decade ago, according to a transcript of the recorded conversation.
The undated phone recording appears to have been made before Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais' divorce from his wife, Susan, was finalized in 2001. According to the transcript, DesJarlais tells the unidentified woman that he is concerned that she hadn't taken steps toward terminating the pregnancy.
"You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," DesJarlais is quoted as saying. "If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let's do it."
DesJarlais on his website espouses a platform that opposes abortion, saying: "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life."
The DesJarlais campaign did not dispute the contents of the transcript first reported by the Huffington Post, but condemned the circulation of "desperate personal attacks."
"This is old news from the last election cycle that Tennesseans have already widely rejected," spokesman Robert Jameson said in an email.
"Since the congressman's opponents cannot attack him on his independent, conservative and pro-life record in Congress they have once again resorted to pure character assassination," he said.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, defeated Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis in 2010. Davis said his campaign was aware of the transcript during that race, but he wasn't able to confirm its authenticity until a recent conversation with DesJarlais' ex-wife.
"She said it was true, and she said, 'He made the recording himself and let me listen to it,'" Davis said in a phone interview. "She even went further to say that the woman who supposedly was the participant in the conversation said in (legal proceedings) that she did have an abortion."
The transcript is part of a 200-page memorandum of court records detailing DesJarlais' divorce. The author of the report is not listed.
DesJarlais faces Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart this year.
Stewart said at a press conference Wednesday that DesJarlais "doesn't deny that as a medical doctor he had an affair with a patient, got that patient pregnant and then begged and pleaded with her to terminate the pregnancy."
"Scott DesJarlais has proven over and over again that he cannot be trusted and this latest revelation is absolutely disqualifying," Stewart said.
It's not the first time DesJarlais' marital problems have surfaced. The Davis campaign in 2010 ran ads highlighting allegations from court records that said DesJarlais intimidated his ex-wife with a gun, and in one instance put it in his mouth for three hours. The judge who granted the divorce in 2001 criticized the conduct of both the husband and wife.
In the newly surfaced transcript, DesJarlais refers to the toll the marital issues had been taking on him.
"I've been going crazy," he said. "I mean, if Susan could talk to you she'd tell you that I've been psychotic for months over this."
He said he wasn't sleeping at night, adding, "I mean, it's like I'm trying to build my family back together just waiting for it to fall apart, and it's been eating me apart."
DesJarlais appears to blame the woman for becoming pregnant.
"You lied to me about something that caused us to be in this situation, and that's not my fault, that's yours," he said.
The woman retorts: "Well, it's your fault for sleeping with your patient."