Democrats ask Tenn. court to unseal Scott DesJarlais's divorce records

The Tennessee Democratic Party on Wednesday asked a county judge to unseal records dealing with Rep. Scott DesJarlais's (R) divorce, in a bid to learn more about what Democrats say is an "unethical sexual relationship" with one of his patients.

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Gerard Stranch, legal counsel for the state party, said Democrats are looking to uncover whether DesJarlais engaged in any other inappropriate behavior when he was a doctor.

"Scott DesJarlais has admitted to at least four extra marital affairs, one of which was with a patient in his care, a clear violation of his professional code of ethics and state law," Stranch said. "DesJarlais wasn't honest with us the first time he ran for office, and there's no other way to know what else he's hiding."

DesJarlais is a Tennessee Republican who has said he opposes abortion rights, but he has been under fire in the wake of a report earlier this month that he pressured the patient with whom he had an affair to get an abortion. 

DesJarlais has not denied the 12-year-old affair, but he claims the woman was never actually pregnant, so the abortion was never necessary. 

He's also characterized the episode as old news that's irrelevant to his performance on Capitol Hill, but the issue has nonetheless complicated his reelection chances.

"Citizens and voters have a right to know whether their congressman has honored the law and his professional code of ethics," Stranch said. "To avoid further embarrassment to our state, Tennesseans deserve full disclosure before they cast their ballot on November 6th."

The state Democratic party filed its request in Marion County Chancery Court. Democrats are also charging that some documents related to his divorce may have been removed from the docket, and asked the court to investigate this possibility.

DesJarlais appeared to be headed for a relatively easy reelection in Tennessee's Republican-leaning 4th District until the latest round of headlines about his personal life. 

A poll released last week found DesJarlais's lead over Democrat Eric Stewart had shrunk to 5 percentage points, an 11-point shift since June.