Publicly addressing charges brought against him for the first time, Rep. Scott DesJarlais told a radio host Thursday that a woman he allegedly impregnated and encouraged to have an abortion was never actually pregnant.
The remarks were detailed in an Associated Press report.
The congressman, embroiled in a scandal four weeks before he faces re-election, did not deny any other elements of a reported extra-marital affair with a former patient.
A transcript of a phone conversation between DesJarlais and the unnamed woman, recorded in 2000, quotes the congressman encouraging the woman to consider terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
Beyond denying that the woman had ever conceived, DesJarlais did not appear to explain why he would have been discussing the possibility of going through with an abortion with the woman. Requests by Nooga.com to the congressman's office for transcripts or audio of the radio interview were declined.
The congressman's comments go against a quote from former 4th District Rep. Lincoln Davis, who recently told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that an abortion did occur.
Having been supportive of the congressman since allegations were raised, the Tennessee Republican Party and DesJarlais were denounced by the state Democratic party chairman early Friday. In a news release, chairman Chip Forrester described the state Republican party's support of the congressman as hypocritical.
"I'm truthfully shocked Chairman Chris Devaney has not already withdrawn his party's support for the disgraceful Scott DesJarlais, and that any Republican official would refuse to condemn unethical and immoral behavior of this magnitude," Forrester said. "… The silence and inaction of chairman Devaney and the Republican establishment is tantamount to approval of DesJarlais' unbelievable dishonesty and astonishing hypocrisy."
The congressman's circumstances will undoubtedly play a role in the coming weeks, before he faces state Sen. Eric Stewart in November's election. Despite a comfortable fundraising lead for DesJarlais, the 4th District race presents state Democrats with what may be their best chance at gaining an additional House seat in Tennessee.
The election is Nov. 6.
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