NASHVILLE - U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a physician, said today he knew a woman he had sex with 12 years ago wasn't actually pregnant despite her claims he was responsible for impregnating her.
"There was no pregnancy and there was no abortion," the 4th Congressional District representative told the Times Free Press today.
DesJarlais, a freshman lawmaker who opposes abortion, is battling a controversy over a transcript of a recorded conversation in which he presses the unnamed woman to get an abortion.
"I was attempting to use strong language to get her to tell me the truth," said DesJarlais, who added that he didn't record the conversation and had no idea it was being recorded.
The congressman has come under attack from Democratic opponent Eric Stewart over the transcript, first reported by the Huffington Post earlier this week.
According to the transcript, DesJarlais questioned the woman on why 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."
He also told her he wanted an ultrasound.
DesJarlais said he pushed the issue because as a doctor he knew the woman should have been showing signs of pregnancy because "it was approximately four months from the time that I had been with her."
Moreover, DesJarlais said, a mutual friend strongly cast doubts about the truthfulness of the claims made by the woman, whom he had once treated for an ankle problem.
"Again, there was a lot of poor judgment involved, probably on the part of both parties," DesJarlais said.
At the time physician was married. But he said he and his then-wife, Susan, were in the midst of divorce proceedings.
"The divorce was [filed] in December of '98," he said. "After a period of separation, my wife and I agreed ... [and] signed an agreement we could see other people."
Both did under the agreement, he noted and rejected characterizations of the news characterizations of the woman as his "mistress" and his seeing her an "affair."
At the time of the recorded call, both he and his then-wife were attempting to reconcile, his interest primarily being their son, the congressman said. The reconciliation failed and the DesJarlais' bitter divorce was finalized in 2001.
Claims made by Susan DesJarlais in the divorce exploded into controversy in his 2010 upset victory over U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.
"I would say that for Lincoln Davis and the behavior of my opponent, it must speak volume of both of their characters," DesJarlais said. "Apparently they must have lived lives beyond reproach. The one thing I think is lost in this is the devastation it causes for the families."