NASHVILLE - Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin on Thursday endorsed Republican Grant Starrett on his nationally syndicated program while also slamming Starrett's GOP primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., as a "sell out" and "sleazeball."
Levin invited Starrett onto his program after Starrett's campaign earlier this week began airing a radio spot featuring a recording of DesJarlais labeling Levin as a "bought and paid for" conservative who "can be sold to the highest bidder."
Starrett's ad criticized DesJarlais for the remarks.
"[H]e has a very poor rating from Conservative Review of which I am the editor in chief, and for good reason he has a very poor rating," Levin said. "He [DesJarlais] has personally attacked me. That I am 'bought and paid for' by the RINOs. But even more than that he's got a very sleazy character issue there doesn't he?"
Starrett tiptoed around that, saying, "Well I try not to get into the 50 shades of DesJarlais myself, but it is completely outrageous that he has attacked you. And the notion - anybody who listens to this show, anybody who reads any of your books, to think that you're 'for sale to the highest bidder' - which is his quote - it's absolutely incredible.
"I mean I would like to say I was shocked but it's consistent with the
rest of his behavior," Starrett added.
Levin later said "well, I want to endorse you, strongly. I think you'd make an outstanding Constitutional conservative in the House of Representatives that needs more of them."
The talk show host also encouraged Starrett, if he were to be elected, to join the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus. DesJarlais is a member of the group.
Levin then called DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician, "utterly and completely useless. He's definitely a sell out, he's definitely a creature of Washington now."
After the interview segment with Starrett was over, Levin launched more broadsides at DesJarlais, beginning with "awful."
"If you Google this guy Scott DesJarlais, you'll see what a sleazeball this guy is,
in my humble opinion, just one man's opinion," said Levin who went on to describe Starrett as an "up-and-comer, Constitutional conservative. Be nice if we had a little upset, wouldn't it?"
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson was having none of it.
"According to Mark Levin's own website and rankings, Scott DesJarlais is one of the most effective conservative Members of Congress," Jameson said in a statement. "Whether it is being a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voting against Speaker Boehner,or refusing to fund President Obama's unconstitutional executive orders on illegal amnesty, Scott DesJarlais has shown he puts actions above mere words."
He said Levin "clearly knows very little about Congressman DesJarlais' record as his own congressional scorecard proclaims Congressman DesJarlais to be a conservative stalwart."
Moreover, Jameson continued, "no endorsement will change the fact that Grant Starrett is a 28-year old trust fund establishment politician who just moved to Tennessee's Fourth District to buy a Congressional seat.
"Maybe Grant can go intern for Mark when he loses this election and moves back to his parents' mansion in California," Jameson added.
According to Levin's Conservative Review website, DesJarlais is in a two-way tie with U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., as the 26th most conservative representative with a rating of 84 percent on various issues listed by Levin.
Twenty-five members' voting records rated higher under Levin's rating system. A number of those involved ties such as four Republicans each having a 93 percent rating. In terms of ranking, Given varies ties, the 84 percent rating would put DesJarlais and Duncan in a two-way tie for a No. 14 ranking.
The House has 247 Republicans.
While Levin wasn't specific about his "sleazeball" charge, DesJarlais' pre-political career problems have been well publicized. In the 2014 GOP primary, he narrowly held on to his 16-county 4th District seat in the GOP primary after records released in late 2012 from his 2001 divorce were released.
Among other things, they showed DesJarlais had had affairs and urged one former patient he'd slept with to get an abortion after the woman said she was pregnant.
DesJarlais has said he was trying to get the woman to acknowledge she wasn't pregnant. He has said that after his divorce he changed his life around, became religious and remarried, happily.