published Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Gerber: DesJarlais is news, like it or not

Tennessee found itself in the national spotlight last week.

But not for a good reason.

Newspapers and websites across the country — ranging from the Washington Post to thehollywoodgossip.com — were abuzz Wednesday with news that U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper Republican who describes himself as pro-life, pressured his mistress to have an abortion.

Making matters worse is that DesJarlais is a physician and the woman at one time was his patient.

A reader asked me Thursday why the Times Free Press chose to run the story stripped across the front page and whether that was fair given that voters decide in less than five weeks whether DesJarlais will go back to Washington for a second term.

My emphatic answer: Yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

The freshman congressman’s website makes this statement about abortion: “All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life.”

That’s called talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Anytime a congressman running for reelection on a pro-life platform asks a woman he had an adulterous affair with to have an abortion, it’s a story. Even if the election was a year away, it’d be a story.

The fact is, voters have a right to know whether the politicians they elect are acting with integrity. Or if they’re hypocritical. Or if they mean what they say on the campaign trail or are just pandering to the political will of their district.

If a politician who presented himself as pro-life does something antithetical, voters have a right to know.

DesJarlais represents the Fourth Congressional District, which includes Bledsoe, Sequatchie, Grundy and Marion counties in Southeast Tennessee, and meanders west and north.

Those counties, tucked in the middle of the Bible Belt, are very conservative. It’s a district where a pro-life, family values candidate resonates with voters.

DesJarlais has cultivated that image.

His campaign website paints him as a hardworking, up-from-the-bootstraps, rural son who is on a mission to “preserve our values and principles.” His congressional website says he ran for office to bring “hometown, conservative values to Congress.”

It’s unknown whether — or how badly — the revelation will hurt him when voters cast ballots on Nov. 6.

The transcript appears to

have been made as part of his divorce proceedings a dozen years ago, and the DesJarlais campaign wrote it off in a statement as a “desperate personal attack” and “gutter politics.”

Even the day the story broke, his campaign staff were touting him as pro-life.

“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,” the campaign stated.

DesJarlais certainly isn’t the first politician whose career has been shaken by choices he made in his private life.

Remember Bill Clinton and Gary Hart? Not to mention the lesser-known politicians who became household names after scandalous behavior — think former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (tweeting lewd photos of himself) and former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (sex-sting arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom).

The media sometimes gets shelled when a story like this breaks, especially so close to an election. Did someone who doesn’t like the congressman leak it? Probably.

But the truth is, a lot of stories about elected officials are leaked by opponents or by those who simply don’t like the politician.

Regardless of where the story came from, if we recognize it as news we need to get on it.

In this case, DesJarlais’ private actions are 180 degrees from what he promotes in his public image.

And, yes, that’s news.

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aae1049 said...

Amen. Shelled or not, report it.

October 14, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.
tipper said...

I think it is a real shame you pick on Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais. He is Pro-Life...pro-political life. I hope the voters abort his re-election.

October 14, 2012 at 12:59 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Umm, I'm not sure what you're so confused about, Jon. The fact that Obama attended Wright's church was well-covered in the press and videos of some of Wright's more controversial statements were shown over all the major news stations repeatedly four years ago when the story broke.

The information about DesJarlais broke more recently which is why it's being covered now.

Your need to turn everything into an anti-Obama rant is really pretty sad.

October 14, 2012 at 3:24 p.m.
mkelley said...

No problem with Wright, that's freedom of speech and religion. Desjarlais, was plain ole fraud, deceit, and adultery. Not to mention, he now has the possibility of losing his MD because of his adultery with his patient.

October 14, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Disclosure of DesJarlais' hypocrisy is absolutely news, and highly relevant to the upcoming election. DesJarlais says one thing (no abortion for women who need or want to make that choice), but it's okay for him to urge an abortion when it's convenient to him.
DesJarlais can't control himself, yet wants to control the lives and decisions of everyone else. The TFP would not be a newspaper worth the name if it had buried that story.

October 14, 2012 at 7:06 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

An advanced search on Google with the words "CNN" and "Jeremiah Wright" showed 3,000+ hits. I'd say that means it was fairly well covered. I imagine the results would be the same for most other news stations, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince some hyper-partisan joker who just believes what he wants to believe.

One question though: How does Obama's connection to Jeremiah Wright absolve Scott DesJarlias of his inappropriate and hypocritical behavior?

October 14, 2012 at 10:28 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Yes, report it, but what about partisan equal time? Although it is more difficult to get moral dirt on the Dems, the bar is so low, hehe

October 14, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

A medical doctor having sex with a patient is abuse of the patient/doctor relationship. Consent doesn't absolve the guilt.

Riddle me this, would he want his mom to know this, "Mom, I'm sleeping with one of my patients and I asked her to have an abortion - but I don't think anyone ELSE should have that right - just me 'cause it's convenient for ME" His mother would be ashamed.

October 15, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
moon4kat said...

And, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to complain about the timing of this story. This evidence of DesJarlais' hypocrisy was disclosed almost several weeks before election day. Plenty of time for him to set the record straight . . . if he could. But, the undeniable facts are there . . . he had sex with a patient and urged her to get an abortion. He wants to control everyone else's choices and then do -- and get away with -- his own scummy and unethical conduct.

October 15, 2012 at 11:21 a.m.
SarahS1980 said...

We as citizens can make our voice heard on this issue. Sign this petition to tell the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners and the American Medical Association that sexual relationship between doctors and their patients is not okay:

http://www.change.org/petitions/tennessee-board-of-medical-examiners-and-the-american-medical-association-revoke-the-medical-license-of-dr-scott-desjarlais-for-ethics-violations

October 15, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

When John Edwards' affair was brought to light, I don't know of a single Democrat or liberal who tried to defend him. Everybody agreed that he deserved to lose his job over what he did. Even Anthony Weiner, whose transgression was just crude and teenager-ish compared to what DesJarlais did, was censured by his own party and asked to resign.

But you conservatives who are defending DesJarlais, or at least making the excuse that an immoral Republican in office is still better than any Democrat, are as hypocritical as the man himself. He got caught, there is firm evidence to implicate him, and what he did was the epitome of sleaze and hypocrisy. He should willingly resign, or the Republican party should force him to. But according to his latest comments, it appears that he's going to fight this and move on with his campaign. And you "family values" Republican voters will most likely see to it that the slime-ball gets re-elected. Pathetic.

October 15, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.
hotdiggity said...

Hey JonRoss, this is what we have come to expect of Cons.

http://www.republicanoffenders.com/

Enjoy.

October 15, 2012 at 7:52 p.m.
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