NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee congressman, in his first public comments since reports that he once urged a mistress to get an abortion, said Thursday that the woman turned out not to be pregnant.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a freshman Republican who opposes abortion, did not dispute a transcript of a recorded phone conversation in which he appears to urge the woman to terminate the pregnancy. His remarks came in an interview Thursday with WTN-FM host Ralph Bristol
"I don't mind telling people that there was no pregnancy, and no abortion," said DesJarlais, who is seeking re-election. "But I also don't mind telling people that this was a protracted two-year divorce back in 1999 and 2000. There was some difficult times, for sure."
DesJarlais on his website espouses a platform that opposes abortion, saying: "All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life."
The undated phone recording appears to have been made before DesJarlais' divorce from his wife, Susan, was finalized in 2001.
According to the transcript, DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, told the woman that he was 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 in the transcript appeared 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 responded: "Well, it's your fault for sleeping with your patient."
DesJarlais blamed "a disgruntled, defeated ex-congressman, a vindictive ex-wife, and a desperate Democratic candidate" for dredging up details from his past.
The DesJarlais campaign has dismissed the details as "old news" and personal attacks by the congressman's opponents from the last election cycle. But while the 2010 campaign did feature allegations raised during his divorce that he intimidated his ex-wife with a gun — and in one instance put a gun in his mouth for three hours — the abortion element was not public knowledge until this week.
DesJarlais faces Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart, who has said the congressman has "proven over and over again that he cannot be trusted."
He has since remarried, and said he has enjoyed a "near perfect" marriage for the last decade.
"I would hope that when the voters judge me, they judge me on the marriage I have now," he said in the radio interview.