NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester on Monday called for Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais to resign after a report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press that a second patient of the physician said she had an affair with DesJarlais a dozen years ago.
DesJarlais' campaign manager, Brandon Lewis, said in an email, "We have absolutely no intention of resigning" in the Nov. 6 contest with Democrat Eric Stewart. He charged that Stewart, a state senator from Winchester, has no credibility.
At an earlier news conference in Nashville, Forrester charged DesJarlais with having violated medical ethics statutes.
"Dr. Desjarlais ran his medical practice like a Craigslist cathouse, and now he's mad people are upset about it," Forrester told reporters. "I've got news for him: Citizens and voters have a right to know whether their public officials have lived up to their own moral standards."
Lewis, meanwhile, retorted that Stewart "is not a credible candidate, and his far-left views and support of Obamacare do not reflect the values of Tennessee's 4th District.
"Voters see this smear campaign for what it is: a desperate attempt to distract from Congressman DesJarlais' record of support for lower taxes, job creation and repealing Obamacare," Lewis said.
In another development in the race Monday, a Democratic political action committee said it is spending $180,000 on a second round of television ads after revelations earlier this month that the physician once pressed a woman he'd seen romantically to seek an abortion.
Alixandria Lapp with House Majority PAC, which has ties to Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, also cited the Sunday Times Free Press article in which a second woman acknowledged that she had had a sexual relationship with DesJarlais while under his medical care in 2000.
"Another day, another disturbing revelation about Scott DesJarlais' hypocritical and inappropriate behavior," said Lapp, the super PAC's executive director. "The bottom line is this: Scott DesJarlais shouldn't be in Congress."
DesJarlais, whose campaign platform includes his opposition to abortion rights, has said that, with the first woman, there was no pregnancy and no abortion. He said he used "strong language" with her to try to get her to admit that she wasn't pregnant. The episode occurred during his three-year-long divorce from his then-wife, Susan DesJarlais.
The second woman described DesJarlais to the Times Free Press as "the nicest guy," but said "his biggest thing that's completely unethical is him just picking up women while he's a doctor. I mean, seriously, that's his big no-no."
She also said she and DesJarlais had together used drugs, including marijuana, an assertion that could not be verified independently.
The DesJarlais campaign has not disputed the woman's assertions but said she "reached out to both the congressman's wife and the paper to express concerns about her statements being taken out of context and factual inaccuracies contained in this article."
Lewis said, "[It is] clear that the Chattanooga Times Free Press has no interest in informing their readers about the real issues facing Tennesseans."
A Times Free Press reporter spoke with the woman last week in a face-to-face interview, which was recorded. She spoke on condition she not be identified. Her name was on a list of witnesses that Susan DesJarlais submitted to the court in the divorce, which was finalized in 2001.
Neither the woman nor the campaign responded to the reporter's follow-up inquiries on what portions of the interview were being questioned.
Lewis said "it speaks volumes" that former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, whom DesJarlais beat in 2010, "recently said that he regretted his actions and that these types of personal smear campaigns that hurt families have no place in politics."
During the 2010 campaign, Davis used a court filing by Susan DesJarlais in which she accused her husband of erratic behavior, including inserting a gun in his mouth for three hours. DesJarlais denied the allegations.
DesJarlais' campaign, meanwhile, released a memorandum from its pollster saying the 4th District congressman "continues to hold a solid double-digit lead" among likely voters in his contest with Stewart.
"Fully 49 percent of voters say they are voting for DesJarlais" while 36 percent "are siding with Eric Stewart," pollster Rob Autry with Public Opinion Strategies said the survey of 400 likely voters found.
The poll, conducted Oct. 22-23, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Stewart last week said his own internal poll shows the contest in a "dead heat."
Neither campaign has released its full polls, which would show an initial "horse race" question posed to voters. Candidate polls often follow that up with specifically designed questions aimed at testing voters' reactions to specific lines of attack, and a final question on whom they're supporting is posed.
Staff writer Chris Carroll contributed to this story.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, ...
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