DesJarlais says he didn’t mislead voters, intends to continue serving in Congress

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) said he has no plans to resign and expects to run for reelection in 2014, despite recent revelations surrounding a decade-old divorce.

In his first public comments since the release of a court transcript from his 14-year-old divorce, DesJarlais echoed a statement made by his spokesman to The Hill two weeks ago in insisting that he "will serve as long as the people want me to serve."

ADVERTISEMENT
"I am human," he said during an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel. "I don't think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public."

DesJarlais faced attacks from Democrats during his campaign when revelations that he pressured a mistress to get an abortion surfaced. Critics charged the staunch pro-life, socially-conservative lawmaker with hypocrisy, but he still prevailed with a 12-percentage-point win in his deep-red Tennessee district.

Despite the criticism, DesJarlais said he does plan to run for reelection in 2014, though he's wary of the nasty campaign he expects to face.

"We both feel like we have been stripped pretty much naked in front of the entire district and now maybe the country," DesJarlais said of he and his current wife, Amy. But "we will continue with thick skin."

Initial details surrounding Desjarlais's conversation with his mistress surfaced after a transcript of a phone conversation he had with her went public.

DesJarlais initially said that he had been taped without his knowledge during the call, but the recent release of his divorce proceedings revealed he and his wife taped the conversation themselves, hoping to trick the mistress into revealing she wasn't really pregnant. 

Critics have questioned whether DesJarlais lied to the public about the tapes, but he insisted to the News Sentinel that he was simply mistaken and did not purposely mislead his constituents when initially responding to questions.

"One of the biggest mistakes I made was I commented to the press before I had the opportunity to go back and read a transcript that was 13, 14 years old. It was never my intention to mislead anyone, and had I read this, I don't think the inaccuracies that occurred would have taken place," he said.

The new transcript also revealed that DesJarlais supported his wife's decision to have two abortions, and that he slept with two patients, three co-workers and a drug company representative while he worked as chief of staff at a Tennessee hospital.

DesJarlais said that his views on abortion had evolved, and that when he supported his wife's abortions, it "was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have."

He also admitted that his extramarital relationships were "in poor taste, and it was a poor decision on my part."

"If I had a chance to go back and do it over again, I would change many things, and that would be one of them," he said.