Congressman Scott DesJarlais’ belated public announcement last week that God has forgiven him for his multiple extramarital affairs and his support of abortion — he got his first wife to have two abortions, and later urged one of his several lovers, a former patient, to seek one — comes at a mighty convenient time, for him at least.
The election was four weeks ago. Had he admitted his mendacious, anti-family, pro-abortion, prevaricating and philandering ways before the election, his implied guilty plea would have carried considerably more weight. He surely would have had more on the line.
Certainly a pre-election admission about his slimy personal history and his claim that God had forgiven him would have given voters a chance to test his sincerity, and their conviction, about the veracity of his claim concerning God. It also would have given meaningful weight to his related comment that he now wants voters to accept his forgiveness and let him get on with his life as their wayward congressman.
DesJarlais clearly failed to man-up to that standard. He waited for weeks after the election to suggest that God had blessed his sins, and then he quickly wrapped his vague admission in his belief in “grace and redemption.” He added: “I think God gave me a second chance,” and he went on to suggest that only people who see “political advantage” would deny him “grace and redemption.”
We suspect voters would like to know why didn’t he come clean before the election, and give them a “second chance” to reconsider why they would want to cast their vote for him.
It’s obvious, of course, that DesJarlais didn’t have the courage to put everything on the line before the election and test voters’ view of God’s forgiveness. Too bad. There was plenty to put to a test.
Earlier in the campaign, for example, a tape recording that DesJarlais himself had made became public. It proved that he had had a love affair with a former patient whom he had urged to seek an abortion. But what did he do then? He argued that it was a smear, and that he didn’t mean what he actually had said.
Then, when a second former lover (and also a former patient) spoke up to say that she, too, had had an affair and did drugs with Dr. DesJarlais while he was still married, he let his campaign manager deny and denigrate her claim.
In fact, he simply encouraged more lies and hid the truth right up to the election. And days later, when the records of his divorce proceedings were fully disclosed and showed that he had affairs with at least five women, including a pharmaceutical representative, while he was head of Jasper’s Grandview Hospital, he refused to comment on his odius record.
Others have commented, of course. In addition to the correct but predictable criticism from Democrats, his fellow Republicans have distanced themselves from him. Gov. Haslam virtually disowned him. state Rep. Kevin Brooks, of Cleveland, the assistant majority leader in the House, said he was considering running against DesJarlais in 2014.
And in the interim, a national advocacy group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, placed ethics charges against him with Tennessee’s Health Department for his unethical conduct as a physician, and with the Office of Congressional Responsibility and Ethics because he lied to his constituents. The state Health Department has opened a complaint file against him, and these charges are now being considered.
At least six medical-related political action committees, including insurance giants BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum, also have said they won’t help fund his campaigns anymore.
So now DesJarlais, without actually confessing his misdeeds, has gone on a political radio program and claimed not just that God has forgiven him and given him a second chance. But in the same breath, he said again that he had been a consistent supporter of “pro-life values,” and he denied that he misled voters in the run-up to the November election.
District 4 voters now will have two years to consider DesJarlais’ blatant duplicity and shameful conduct. That’s more than ample time to consider why he doesn’t merit a second chance to serve as their representative.