Tennessee Democrats understandably called for newly re-elected Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who represents the state's 4th District, to resign Thursday after testimony from the transcript of his 2001 divorce trial was reported by The Chattanooga Times Free Press. Republicans in his district, elsewhere in the state and round the nation should join that demand. The details revealed in the sworn testimony are that damning.
Some of the details contained in the transcript of the proceedings between the physician and his first wife -- at least two sexual affairs with patients, his urging one of his paramours to have an abortion -- were public knowledge during the just concluded campaign in which DesJarlais defeated Democratic challenger Eric Stewart. DesJarlais told voters to pay no attention to the charges, suggesting they had little merit and that they were the product of a smear campaign designed to distract voters from the true issues in the campaign. He was wrong on both counts.
The charges leveled during the campaign did have merit. Indeed, they were just a suggestion of things to be revealed in the transcript. Court testimony revealed that DesJarlais admitted to having sexual relations with at least two patents, three co-workers and a drug representative. He admitted, as well, to paying for a plane ticket to Las Vegas and giving an $875 watch to one lover-patient and prescribing powerful pain medication for her as well. That conduct clearly violates patient-physician ethical standards and could lead to the loss of his license to practice medicine.
According to the transcript, DesJarlais also encouraged his ex-wife to get two abortions before their marriage. It's hard to square that admission with DesJarlais' public and political stance as "a consistent supporter of pro-life values." The congressman might have been able to escape the consequences of his testimony and the differences between his personal conduct and public utterances before the transcript was revealed, but he should be required to respond now.
It's unlikely he will. He'll try to ride out the storm.
DesJarlais understandably had little to say about his conduct during either of his successful campaigns, other than to loudly complain about the allegedly devious tactics of Democrats opposed to him. All that was double-talk of the worst kind. Turns out the opponents were correct about DesJarlais' political, moral and ethical shortcomings. The doctor was the one who engaged in duplicitous conduct.
DesJarlais' deceit, prevarications and hypocrisy about his conduct make him unfit for office. He should resign from the House of Representatives promptly. If he refuses to do so, 4th District voters should explore ways to bring him home from Washington.