Sin may be geographical—and subject to the laws of Your Own Personal Deity—but hypocrisy is universal. And while one may believe Your God has forgiven your trespasses (which amounts to wishful thinking at best), political partisans, if not blindly faithful constituents, will judge you harshly in this life.
If God has truly (and conveniently) forgiven U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the 4th District Republican, Tea Party darling and dead ringer for Uncle Fester of “The Addams Family,” of his sins—including sleeping with patients, romancing co-workers and supporting his ex-wife’s two abortions—The Lord forgot to update his Democratic foes, the media and even some Republicans. But in a recent radio interview, DesJarlais claims God has indeed forgiven him and urged his “fellow Christians” and constituents—sometimes not one in the same—“to consider doing the same.”
That’s a tall order of exoneration for a politician who rose to office and was re-elected on an anti-abortion, pro-life platform. But maybe by appearing on a conservative radio talk show in Nashville, DesJarlais figured he’d spare himself further grief in the press. No chance, Scott.
The Times Free Press unearthed DesJarlais’ unethical past when a former patient (DesJarlais was a Jasper physician before running for Congress) came forward before the November elections with the revelation that she’d had an affair with him and he urged her to get an abortion, according to a taped conversation. The paper hammered DesJarlais in news reports and in editorials—conservative editorial page editor Drew Johnson even went so far as endorse his Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart—but the freshman congressman defeated Stewart despite mounting evidence. And now, it seems, DesJarlais is spending that “political capital” by pronouncing himself redeemed, claiming his politics and not his past are what counts.
So far, DesJarlais’ party masters have yet to publicly join the fray, but the evidence is solid enough for a growing group of Republican challengers to step in, condemning DesJarlais while eyeing his seat in 2014—or sooner.
Both Weston Wamp, son of former 3rd District Congressman Zach Wamp who ran for his father’s old seat this year and lost to incumbent Chuck Fleischmann, and State House Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) have made statements affirming their interest in DesJarlais’ 4th District seat. State Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) is also interested.
Meanwhile, a freshly absolved DesJarlais says he has no intention of stepping down and will run for a third term in 2014. Trouble is, he won’t likely have as much campaign cash. The TFP reported on Sunday that medical-related political action committees who contributed a combined $71,000 to DesJarlais’ campaign this year won’t be directing funds to his 2014 run. Meanwhile, the laws of man may not be far behind. The Tennessee Department of Health has opened a complaint file, which may lead to an examination by the Board of Medical Examiners.
Funny thing about the pro-life, family values crowd is that when it’s one of their candidates under scrutiny, the opposition is scorned for a lack faith, compassion or the inability to forgive (the implication being that the accusers must be living in glass houses). But political parties—and, we suspect, the state medical board—are also less than forgiving.
DesJarlais is even less bothered. “I’m ashamed of things that have happened, I’m moving on, and I’ll be fine,” he has said. We guess that makes abortion murder only if it’s someone else’s abortion. Glad we cleared that up.