Republican leaders reluctant to criticize DesJarlais over accusations of affair, abortion

Republican leaders reluctant to criticize DesJarlais over accusations of affair, abortion

October 11th, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam

Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Times Free Press.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarLais

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Tennessee's top Republicans declined today to either support or criticize U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., after allegations that he told a former mistress to have an abortion in 2000.

"I don't go around telling people what to do about issues like that," U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today. "That's between the congressman and the voters of his district. I know the voters of his district very well and they are fully capable of making their own minds up about this."

Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Tenn., said he didn't know enough to make a judgment of DesJarlais, who reportedly told one of his former patients she should have an abortion for a child he thought he may have fathered 12 years ago.

"I haven't talked with the congressman so it's probably not appropriate until I know a little more," Haslam told reporters during a visit to Chattanooga today. "I probably will speak to him, but what I know now is simply what I read in the papers. Until I have a chance to really understand that situation better, I'm just not going to comment. I want the chance to talk with Scott and to do some other things."

According to documents filed in a 2001 divorce with DesJarlais' first wife, DesJarlais told a patient he had had an affair with that she should have an abortion. DesJarlais, who was endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life in 2010 for his pro-life political positions, has not denied that a telephone transcript in which he told his former mistress she was "getting too far along" with her pregnancy without having an abortion. Court records indicate the woman eventually did have an abortion 12 years ago.

DesJarlais has denounced the charges as "dirty politics." But he has not discussed the accuracy of the account, which was first published Wednesday by the Huffington Post.