Ensign says Hampton sought payment

The husband of the woman who had an affair with John Ensign "made exorbitant demands for cash" from the GOP senator from Nevada, according to Ensign's spokesman.

In a statement, Ensign accused Doug Hampton of attempting to wrangle money from him in recent weeks. Ensign publicly announced he was unfaithful earlier this week and subsequently resigned his GOP leadership post.

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"Within the past month, Doug Hampton's legal counsel made exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits on behalf of his client," Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said in a statement. "Doug Hampton's outrageous demand was referred to Senator Ensign's legal counsel, who is handling the matter going forward."

Ensign held a press conference on Tuesday after he learned Hampton had approached a Fox News host with information about the affair. Hampton sent a letter to Fox host Megyn Kelly the week before Ensign made his revelation.

The Hamptons' Las Vegas lawyer refused to comment to several media outlets, and on Saturday did not return a call from The Hill.

The statement followed a difficult week for Ensign, who had been eyeing a White House bid in 2012. Senators told The Hill Ensign's presidential ambitions are essentially dead after he revealed the affair.

But even as Ensign returned to Nevada to make his statement, resigned his post as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and sought to control the political damage, allies in Washington hinted that he made his revelation under duress.

Specuation that requests for money, either legal or illegal, intensified around Washington following Ensign's revelation. Hampton was a former top aide in Ensign's Senate office, and his wife Cynthia worked as a former treasurer for the Nevada senator's campaign and political action committee.

Both Hamptons left Ensign's office in the spring of 2008. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and with open-government agencies do not appear to show any payment to the couple beyond their salaries and what Ensign's office says were unused vacation days.

Meanwhile, Fox News, which did not report the affair before Ensign's announcement, has attracted criticism.

Fox News indicated that it initially did not find Hampton's story credible. However, a Fox News producer has accepted blame for failing to pass the letter on to his superiors.

"Raise your hand if you think the Fox News producer would have dropped the ball if a juicy, inside scoop about, say, Democrat Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] having an affair had fallen into Fox News' lap," wrote Eric Boehlert, a blogger for Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog. "Yeah, me neither."