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Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais pressed mistress to get an abortion, report says

Freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), an anti-abortion rights physician, once had a relationship with a patient and tried to persuade her to get an abortion, according to a Huffington Post report published Wednesday.


(Erik Schelzig/AP)

The report references a transcript of a phone call in 2000 between DesJarlais and a woman with whom he had reportedly had a sexual relationship. According to the transcript, DesJarlais and the woman engaged in a back-and-forth over the prospect of her getting an abortion, with DesJarlais at one point telling the woman "you told me you'd have an abortion."

When asked for a comment on the Huffington Post story by The Fix, a DesJarlais spokesperson didn't deny the report, but wrote off the new development as old news.

“This is old news from the last election cycle that Tennesseans have already widely rejected. Desperate personal attacks do not solve our nation’s problems, yet it appears that there are those who choose to continue to engage in the same gutter politics that were characterized by national media as the nastiest in the nation just two years ago," the spokesperson said. "Since the congressman’s opponents cannot attack him on his independent, conservative and pro-life record in Congress they have once again resorted to pure character assassination.”

This isn't the first time DesJarlais's personal life has become an issue. His 2010 campaign had to contend with attacks over documents pertaining to his divorce that alleged violent behavior.

While the new development could complicate DesJarlais's reelection bid, Democrats face face a steep uphill climb against the congressman in a district that leans heavily Republican. Desjarlais's opponent in the 4th District race is Democratic state legislator Eric Stewart. Through mid-July, DesJarlais had nearly $600,000 in his campaign account to Stewart's $153,000, according to campaign finance reports. 

Redistricting shifted some new territory into DesJarlais's district, and he faced the prospect of a potentially tough primary challenge from state Sen. Bill Ketron (R), who ultimately opted against a bid. If DesJarlais wins reelection this year, Ketron may give a 2014 challenge a close look. 

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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