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VOL. 36 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 23, 2012

Group files ethics complaint against DesJarlais

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NASHVILLE (AP) - The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Tuesday filed a congressional ethics complaint against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, accusing the Jasper physician of lying when confronted about an affair with a patient.

DesJarlais won a second term this month despite revelations that he once urged a mistress to seek an abortion. During the campaign he disputed allegations he dated patients and wrote prescriptions for them. A court transcript released the week after the election showed he admitted the incidents while testifying at his 2001 divorce trial.

The transcript also showed that DesJarlais acknowledged recording the abortion conversation with his mistress, although he denied that during the campaign.

DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson dismissed the complaint as a "shallow publicity stunt by a far-left organization."

CREW, which frequently brings ethics complaints agains t lawmakers, issued a statement that calls on Congress to punish DesJarlais for "numerous lies."

Preliminary investigations into outside complaints are conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which then makes recommendations to the House Ethics Committee.

DesJarlais in an interview with The Knoxville News Sentinel last week acknowledged making incorrect assertions about the transcript.

"One of the biggest mistakes I made was I commented to the press before I had the opportunity to go back and read a transcript that was 13, 14 years old," DesJarlais said. "It was never my intention to mislead anyone, and had I read this, I don't think the inaccuracies that occurred would have taken place."

DesJarlais also told the newspaper he regretted the past relationships with two patients and three co-workers while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper. He had previously denied a newspaper report that said he had a sexual relationship with a patient and he prescribed her painkillers.

"It was in poor taste, and it was a poor decision on my part," DesJarlais said. "If I had a chance to go back and do it over again, I would change many things, and that would be one of them."

Those comments stand in contrast to his reaction to a Chattanooga Times Free Press report late in the campaign that a patient had said she had a sexual relationship with DesJarlais and he prescribed her painkillers. The campaign at the time attacked the newspaper for "reporting a factually inaccurate story from a non-credible anonymous source who is lying."

But on the witness stand, DesJarlais acknowledged dating at least two patients and prescribing a painkiller. "Yes, she is a patient and I wrote her prescriptions," he said.

CREW has also filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health, arguing that DesJarlais should be disciplined by the state for conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient.