NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a licensed physician, was reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for having sex with patients before he was elected to Congress, according to documents released Thursday.
The Republican won re-election last year despite revelations he had affairs with patients and once urged one of them to seek an abortion.
He was fined $500 for two counts of unprofessional conduct, and is responsible for up to $1,000 in costs for the panel’s investigation. He did not contest the findings
The ruling comes in response to two complaints filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which called the penalties “piteous.”
“This decision demonstrates that Tennessee’s ban on sexual exploitation of patients is essentially meaningless,” Melanie Sloan, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Doctors in the Volunteer State can freely prey on patients with little fear of repercussions.”
The watchdog group has also filed an ethics complaint in the U.S. House.
DesJarlais did not immediately return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press. But the congressman told The Tennessean newspaper: “I take responsibility for past mistakes and am happy to get this resolved.”
DesJarlais nevertheless called the complaint politically motivated, saying it’s “somewhat ironic” that he had gone without any complaints filed against him in the 20 years he practiced before his election to Congress.
DesJarlais has already drawn two Republican challengers in advance of next year’s primary. State Sen. Jim Tracy and state Rep. Joe Carr have far outraised the incumbent through the first quarter of the year.
During his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior and multiple affairs before his divorce was finalized in 2001. But court transcripts released the week after the election showed he admitted to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion, which he publicly opposes, and used a gun to intimidate his ex-wife during an argument.
The sworn testimony also revealed for the first time that the congressman had agreed when his ex-wife had two abortions.
— Note: The CREW press release is below.
News release from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) alleging Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) violated House rules by blatantly lying to the public when confronted about an inappropriate sexual relationship he had with a patient while serving as her treating physician.
In October, a transcript of a telephone conversation between the doctor-turned-congressman and the unidentified woman was released revealing the pro-life congressman urging the woman, who he believed might have been pregnant with his child, to have an abortion.
Rep. DesJarlais stated he had not recorded the conversation, claiming it “was recorded unknowingly without my consent.” Recently released testimony from the congressman’s divorce proceedings proves Rep. DesJarlais intentionally and knowingly recorded the call. Under oath, he testified that he and his wife recorded the conversation to discern whether the mistress/patient was lying about her pregnancy.
“Apparently, Rep. DesJarlais suffered a convenient memory block until a transcript from his divorce refreshed his recollection after he was reelected,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Taping a conversation with a mistress doesn’t seem like something you would easily forget, but maybe now he will argue his memory was clouded by the pot he was smoking at the time, or he confused that mistress with one of his many others.”
Rep. DesJarlais also claimed — and continues to claim — the patient was not pregnant and did not have an abortion. Testifying under oath in Rep. DesJarlais’ divorce case, however, the woman asserted that, in fact, she was pregnant and fairly confident Rep. DesJarlais was the father. Nevertheless, she refused to comment on the outcome of the pregnancy, but said she had no children by Rep. DesJarlais.
“It is clear Rep. DesJarlais lied to ensure his telling of events aligns with his current anti-abortion stance. Apparently, his views have ‘evolved’ to the point where he now believes abortions should be illegal for everyone except the women with whom he sleeps,” continued Ms. Sloan, who noted the congressman seemingly had urged his wife to have two abortions. “Rep. DesJarlais’ constituents may have overlooked his reprehensible conduct and numerous lies, but hopefully, the House will not. Whatever happened to Speaker Boehner’s much touted ‘zero tolerance’ for misconduct?”
Click here to read CREW’s letter to the OCE
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact David Merchant at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington responded Wednesday to new allegations against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, again asking state medical authorities to investigate its ethics complaint against the physician-turned-congressman, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “Who knows how many more women are out there, wary of coming forward for fear of embarrassment?” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a news release. “If Tennessee expects its doctors to follow the ban on sexual misconduct, the Board of Medical Examiners must take swift action.”
DesJarlais is a Republican running against Democrat Eric Stewart in the 4th District congressional race. On Oct. 12, the watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against DesJarlais after a phone transcript showed the anti-abortion Republican urging an unnamed patient with whom he had an affair to get an abortion in 2000.
CREW’s latest letter comes after a second woman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that she dated DesJarlais while he was her doctor. She recalled marijuana use between the two and said he prescribed her pain medication on dates at his home.
— Note: The CREW news release is below
News release from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health against Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) for conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient in violation of state law.
Last week, it was reported that in 2001, while he was married, Rep. DesJarlais engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient. A transcript of a conversation between Rep. DesJarlais and the unidentified woman clearly demonstrates the pair began a sexual relationship when Rep. DesJarlais was her treating physician. The transcript also reveals the pro-life congressman urging the woman, whom he believed might have been pregnant with his child, to have an abortion. Rep. DesJarlais has not contested the authenticity of the transcript and has admitted to the relationship.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “Tennessee law is crystal clear: Doctors are prohibited from engaging in sexual relationships with patients. The only question remaining is, now that Tennessee authorities are aware of Rep. DesJarlais’ blatantly unethical and scurrilous conduct, what are they going to do about it?”
During the conversation, the woman blamed their predicament on Rep. DesJarlais, noting it was his “fault for sleeping with your patient.” Rep. DesJarlais responded that she had initiated the relationship by suggesting he ask her out after he called to check on her foot.
According to the Tennessee State Board of Medical Examiners’ Sexual Misconduct Statement and Policy, “sexual contact with a patient is misconduct and is considered to be a violation of T.C.A. Section 63-6-214(b)(1),” which prohibits unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct. The policy makes clear that whether the patient consented to or initiated the sexual contact is immaterial; the physician is strictly liable. Possible penalties for violations include restrictions on a physician’s practice as well as the suspension or even revocation of his medical license.
Sloan continued, “It is hard to imagine behavior much more craven than a married doctor exploiting his position to conduct a sexual relationship with a patient. It is mind-boggling that when confronted with the patient/mistress’s possible pregnancy, this ardent pro-lifer urged her to have an abortion. How much hypocrisy can we stand? Where is Speaker John Boehner’s much-touted zero tolerance for unethical conduct now?”
— Note: Text of the letter to Department of Health is HERE.
In response to an emailed inquiry about the letter, Department of Health spokesman Woody McMillan responded: Anyone can file a complaint with our Complaints Division. The complainant does not have to be a Tennessee resident. Our investigators follow up on each complaint received. We could not speak to a time line, as each complaint is evaluated based on the issues involved.