Rep. Scott DesJarlais said he has no plans to step down and will serve in Congress as long as voters in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District elect him to do so.
The comments, made last week in an hourlong interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, were the first remarks made by the pro-life, pro-family values congressman since the contents of a decade-old, 679-page divorce transcript were released and published by various media outlets.
The transcript revealed that DesJarlais, who had weathered attacks regarding his past life to secure re-election, had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple patients and co-workers, recorded a conversation with a woman in which he encouraged her to have an abortion, and supported his ex-wife’s decision to terminate two pregnancies.
The details contrasted starkly with the image DesJarlais shaped for himself as a representative and went against statements made to voters in the weeks before the election.
DesJarlais told the News Sentinel he did not intend to mislead voters about his past and that he had undergone dramatic change since the time of his bitter divorce.
“I am human,” DesJarlais said. “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 said that he had not gone back and read the contents of the transcript, in which he testified to secretly recording a conversation between him and a woman in September of 2000. The congressman had told voters in an open letter that the conversation, whose contents were the first items of his past that were widely reported this election, had been recorded against his knowledge.
The congressman said that his views against abortion had also changed since the date of the transcript. The report quotes DesJarlais as saying he had been “fairly objective” as a physician and had not weighed other aspects of the issue.
“[Abortion] was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect,” he said. “Going back, if I could change and do things differently, I certainly would.”
The report adds that DesJarlais’ views on abortion were influenced by his marriage to his second wife, Amy, who lost her first husband in a mining accident. Amy DesJarlais had become pregnant when she was in high school but chose to get married and have the child-who is now 17 and being raised by the congressman and his wife.
DesJarlais added that he plans to run in 2014.
Regardless of DesJarlais’ new willingness to comment, his remarks will not likely put the issue to rest before the midterm election. Already, numerous Republicans in the 4th District have hinted at challenging him for the seat.