DesJarlais bashed on abortion by primary foe

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is coming under fire from GOP challenger Grant Starrett’s campaign for passing up an opportunity to grill Planned Parenthood’s chief during a U.S. House hearing, reports Andy Sher. A Desjarlais spokesman says the congressman simply deferred to Republican women.

“Scott DesJarlais just showed the American people why Washington, D.C., is so hated and why he is unfit to be a congressman,” Starrett campaign manager Tommy Schultz charged in a statement.

…Left unsaid by Starrett’s campaign were DesJarlais’ past controversies over abortion. Court records from his 2000 divorce, released in 2012, revealed the pro-life physician went along with his then-wife’s decision to obtain two abortions and encouraged a former patient with whom he’d had an affair to undergo the procedure as well.

DesJarlais has long said his life changed dramatically when he remarried, that he has since found God and has voted “100 percent pro-life.”

His spokesman, Robert Jameson, said Wednesday there was a simple reason why the South Pittsburg, Tenn., lawmaker yielded his time.

“There were several Republican women from other committees that asked for time to be yielded to them by members of the House Oversight Committee so they would have an opportunity to weigh in and participate in the hearing,” Jameson said. “I think all those with pro-life values would understand the import of having [Republican] congressional women weigh in on this issue.”

Jameson said Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who doesn’t serve on the panel, had asked DesJarlais for his time so she could question Richards.

…Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer, a Vanderbilt University political science professor who follows the 4th District, said he doesn’t see the Starrett campaign’s apparent strategy on DesJarlais and abortion as terribly effective.

“It’s not like DesJarlais is voting to fund Planned Parenthood,” Oppenheimer said. “He let someone else rake them over the coals. Maybe it resonates, but with whom? The question is, can you keep adding them up and keep piling them up and that’s hard to do. It’d be easier if [DesJarlais] went off the reservation and then people would go, ‘Wow.'”