NASHVILLE — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., says God has "forgiven me" and asked "fellow Christians" and constituents "to consider doing the same."
In a radio interview, the anti-abortion Republican addressed a past that included supporting his ex-wife's two abortions and, as a physician, sleeping with patients, including one he also urged to undergo an abortion.
The freshman 4th District congressman told Nashville conservative talk show host Ralph Bristol on Friday that he doesn't intend to resign and will seek re-election in 2014.
DesJarlais said he believes in "grace and redemption," adding, "I think God gave me a second chance."
"And I think unless some people see some sort of political advantage to grace and redemption ... they don't want to practice it on their own," the congressman continued.
"I don't know what the reason is behind that, but I know God's forgiven me. ... I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to consider doing the same for me."
But Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester sounded a hypocrisy alarm, calling on the Tennessee GOP executive committee to "strip the congressman of his Republican Party membership or pass a resolution seeking his ouster."
Forrester emailed all 66 Republican executive committee members, triggering a rapid response from state GOP Executive Director Adam Nickas.
"As tempting as it may be," Nickas wrote the executive committee, "we encourage you not to respond to this overt political maneuver."
In the radio interview, DesJarlais, who portrayed himself during his re-election campaign as a "consistent supporter of pro-life values," denied that he misled 4th District voters in October in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
"I don't think, Ralph, that I implied that there was nothing in my past," DesJarlais said Friday.
In a recorded 2000 telephone conversation, DesJarlais pressed a patient who said she was pregnant by him to get an abortion. He said he knew she wasn't pregnant and that there was no abortion, and he said the conversation was recorded without his knowledge.
But a transcript of his divorce trial, released after his re-election, revealed him saying under oath that he did tape the call. The woman testified that she had been pregnant but declined to say whether she had had an abortion.
On the radio Friday, DesJarlais cited the case of an unnamed executive of a national pro-life group, who he said "had two abortions."
"I don't know if that disqualifies her as a pro-life advocate, but I feel very solid in my view and I think my voting record reflects it."
State Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese dismissed all that Friday evening.
"Some people will surely forgive Congressman DesJarlais for having sex with multiple patients and for lying to his constituents about his anti-choice hypocrisy," he said. "But no one will ever forget it."
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...