Washington, D.C. — Tennessee Democrats have asked a state court to unseal Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ divorce records in the wake of revelations that the doctor had an affair with a patient and subsequently pressured her to have an abortion.
On Wednesday Democrats asked a Marion County Chancery Court to unseal the divorce records, and in a blog post, the party’s legal counsel Gerard Stranch argued that “DesJarlais wasn’t honest with us the first time he ran for office, and there’s no other way to know what else he’s hiding.”
Democrats also allege that a number of key documents relating to the divorce — including his ex-wife’s pre-trial brief as well as transcripts and exhibits — were removed from the court.
DesJarlais’ campaign fired back Wednesday afternoon, accusing Democrats of orchestrating a smear campaign against the freshman lawmaker.
“Our conservative support is growing and solidifying as Tennessee voters react to this recycled smear campaign,” DesJarlais spokesman Brandon Lewis said in an email.
“While the Democrats go digging through the dumpster, Congressman DesJarlais is fighting for lower taxes, job creation, and a repeal of Obamacare — the things Tennessee voters actually care about,” Lewis added.
DeJarlais, a conservative, pro-life Republican from a rural and extremely conservative district, seemed on track for re-election this year only a few months ago. But his campaign was rocked earlier this month when he acknowledged having an affair with a patient, which ultimately led to a pregnancy that he pushed her to abort.
Since then, state and national Democrats have jumped on the race, pouring significant funding into it as some voters have soured on his behavior.
DeJarlais is one of a number of Republican candidates across the country who have found themselves tripped up in the tricky issue of abortion. For instance, Senate candidates Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana have both come under fire for comments about rape and abortion
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.