By Reid Wilson - 07/09/09 12:23 PM EDT
In an interview with a Las Vegas political columnist, Doug Hampton, Ensign's former chief of staff, said the affair between his wife and the Nevada Republican lasted just a few months, and that members of a Christian organization to which Ensign belonged suggested the senator pay off Hampton in order to put the affair behind him.
Appearing on "Face to Face" with Nevada political expert Jon Ralston, Hampton said the affair began in December 2007, when the two families were living together at Ensign's Las Vegas home. Hampton discovered a text message Ensign sent to Cindy Hampton's phone, which led to a confrontation between both families.
But into the early months of 2008, Ensign kept calling, texting and "reaching out" to Cindy Hampton, Doug said.
Still, the Hamptons continued working for Ensign, Doug as administrative assistant in Ensign's official office and Cindy as treasurer of both the senator's campaign and his political action committee, and Hampton said the families remained close.
"This put us in an unbelievable position. Our families, our lives were so intertwined," Hampton said, adding that his children call the senator "uncle."
In mid-February, Hampton said he realized the affair was continuing and asked four friends — including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — to confront Ensign. The four men, all members of the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian prayer organization, urged Ensign to write a letter to Cindy Hampton making clear the affair was over.
It was Coburn and the Fellowship Foundation members, Hampton said, who urged Ensign to pay off the Hamptons' house and move them to Colorado. In a statement provided to the Las Vegas Sun, a Coburn spokesman confirmed the Oklahoma senator's involvement.
"Dr. Coburn did everything he could to encourage Sen. Ensign to end his affair and to persuade Sen. Ensign to repair the damage he had caused to his own marriage and the Hamptons' marriage," Coburn spokesman John Hart said in the statement. "Had Sen. Ensign followed Dr. Coburn’s advice, this episode would have ended, and been made public, long ago."
Still, even after the intervention, Hampton said Ensign pursued Cindy Hampton, going as far as to openly confront his top aide.
"John told me flat out, 'Doug, I'm in love with your wife,'" Hampton said.
Slanker has denied knowledge of the affair to media outlets. He was not in his office Thursday morning.
The narrative that Hampton offered is significantly different from that which Ensign has admitted, and which has leaked out in recent weeks. Finance records show both Hamptons left Ensign's employ in April 2008, though Ensign has said the affair lasted into August.
Meanwhile, Ensign himself accused Hampton of misstating events during the interview with Ralston.
"In response to today’s television interview, Sen. Ensign said Doug Hampton was consistently inaccurate in his statements," Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said in a statement released late Wednesday.
Though Ensign would like to put the affair behind him, the story will continue for another day. Ralston's show will air the second portion of his interview with Hampton on Las Vegas television stations Thursday night.