NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Democrats said Monday they sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and "every elected Republican" in the General Assembly "rebuking" them for the GOP's "continued support" of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
Party Chairman Chip Forrester also challenged elected Republicans "to take action" in the wake of revelations that DesJarlais, a physician, had an affair a dozen years ago with a woman who had been his patient.
Calling the relationship "illicit" and a "crystal clear violation of his own medical code of ethics and Tennessee state law," Forrester said in the letter to Republicans that "you have yet to speak publicly against Rep. DesJarlais' embarrassing and shameful revelations, and not a single member of your party has denounced Rep. DesJarlais for breaking the law and violating his patient's trust."
"Do you deem this acceptable behavior, fitting of a Tennessee Congressman? Or will you be the first elected Republican to stand up for the values you proclaim and denounce the hypocrisy of Rep. DesJarlais?" Forrester's letter continued.
In a statement, the 4th District congressman's campaign manager, Brandon Lewis, retorted, "The Tennessee Democratic Party wants to elect a pro-choice, pro-Obamacare, pro-Obama, borrow and spend liberal using a 12-year-old smear campaign to distract from the resulting unemployment, exploding deficits, and rising health care costs that have been brought about by their party's policies."
That is a reference to Democratic challenger Eric Stewart, of Winchester, who has attacked DesJarlais following the publication by the Huffington Post of a partial transcript from the physician's messy 2001 divorce.
In his statement, Lewis said, "Congressman DesJarlais will continue his fight for lower taxes, job creation, and repealing Obamacare despite these types of gutter-politics distractions because Tennesseans deserve solutions -- not dirty politics."
In the transcript, DesJarlais is quoted encouraging the unnamed woman to get an abortion.
DesJarlais, who was first elected in 2010, since has said he was trying to get the woman to admit she really wasn't pregnant. He has said there was no pregnancy and no abortion.
At the time he saw the woman, the congressman has said, he and his then-wife Susan were in the midst of a lengthy, bitter divorce and had agreed to see other people.
In a recent open letter to 4th District voters, DesJarlais asked voters to judge him in light of his 10-year-long subsequent marriage to Amy DesJarlais. He also has protested the impact of Democrats' assault on him on their children.
A Washington, D.C.-based group last week announced it had filed an ethics complaint with the state's Board of Medical Examiners over the relationship with the patient.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.