Watchdog group files complaint on Rep. DesJarlais to Ethics office

The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) refers to a transcript of a decade-old phone conversation DesJarlais had with a former mistress, a patient whom he was treating while he was a practicing physician.

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In October, The Chattanooga Times Free Press published a transcript of the talk between DesJarlais and an unidentified woman who may have been pregnant with his child, in which the doctor-turned-congressman urged her to have an abortion. 

DesJarlais initially claimed he had not recorded the conversation, and that it was done “unknowingly without my consent.”

CREW, though, contends that recently released testimony from the congressman’s decade-old divorce shows that he and his then-wife knowingly recorded the conversation in order to determine whether or not the patient was lying about the pregnancy.

“Apparently, Rep. DesJarlais suffered a convenient memory block until a transcript from his divorce refreshed his recollection after he was reelected,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in a release. “Taping a conversation with a mistress doesn’t seem like something you would easily forget.”

DesJarlais has said he did not intend to purposely mislead his constituents about the conversation with his then-mistress.

“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,” he said in an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel last week. “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.”

CREW’s complaint is the latest controversy for DesJarlais, who has been under fire after revelations from his 2001 divorce surfaced.

The transcripts revealed that he supported his wife’s decision to have two abortions and had slept with two patients while he worked as chief of staff of a Tennessee hospital.

CREW last month also filed a complaint urging the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to probe DesJarlais’s actions while a physician.

Critics charged the staunchly anti-abortion rights lawmaker with hypocrisy, but DesJarlais handily won reelection in Tennessee’s fourth congressional district over Democrat challenger Eric Stewart.

DesJarlais has said he intends to continue serving in Congress and will stand for reelection in 2014.

“I am human,” he said last week. "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."