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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester sent a letter today to Governor Bill Haslam and every elected Republican in the state legislature rebuking their party’s continued support of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican doctor who has admitted to having an illicit affair with a patient — a violation of his code of ethics and state law.
Forrester also challenged each elected Republican to take action without their party to hold Rep. DesJarlais accountable for his unethical misconduct.
“(Rep. DesJarlais’) unabashed hypocrisy and arrogance has undermined his ability to be an effective member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a trustworthy advocate for Tennesseans. Yet the Tennessee Republican Party and your party’s leadership continue to defend and support a man who deserves no defense,” Forrester stated. “For leaders, integrity is not an optional tool to be applied in convenient situations. There are certain times when true leaders need to step up and make the difficult decision to hold one of their own accountable for betraying their values.”
The full text of the letter is below:
October 23, 2012
RE: Are you and your party going to continue supporting Rep. DesJarlais?
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing today to draw your attention to a crisis of leadership at the Tennessee Republican Party. Nearly two weeks have passed since we all learned that Congressman Scott DesJarlais, a doctor, had an illicit affair with a patient — a crystal clear violation of his own medical code of ethics and Tennessee state law.
You have yet to speak publicly against Rep. DesJarlais’ embarrassing and shameful revelations, and not a single member of your party has denounced Rep. DesJarlais for breaking the law and violating his patient’s trust. Do you deem this acceptable behavior, fitting of a Tennessee Congressman? Or will you be the first elected Republican to stand up for the values you proclaim and denounce the hypocrisy of Rep. DesJarlais?
According to reports, Rep. DesJarlais, of Jasper, Tenn., engaged in an extramarital affair and sexual relationship with a patient in 2001. A transcript of a conversation between Rep. DesJarlais and an unidentified woman clearly demonstrates the pair began the sexual relationship when Rep. DesJarlais was her treating physician. News reports also indicate that Rep. DesJarlais pressured the woman, who was said to be pregnant with his child, to have an abortion.
Tennessee law is clear: Doctors are prohibited from engaging in sexual relationships with patients. 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.
Rep. DesJarlais has said very little, but he has not contested the authenticity of the transcript and he has admitted to the relationship with his patient.
Since the scandal broke, Rep. DesJarlais has made almost no public appearances in Tennessee, depriving constituents and voters of important opportunities to meet with their representative, and he has gone to great lengths to hide from the press.
While some of your party’s leadership has refused to address the doctor-patient sex scandal or suggested that a person’s sexual life should not be questioned, leaders elsewhere contend that citizens and voters do have an interest and a right to know whether their public officials have honored the law and their professional code of ethics.
Further, Rep. DesJarlais’ sexual affairs and unethical doctor-patient relationships would not be an issue if he were not a member of Congress and established himself up as a moral arbiter of everyone else’s behavior.
But he has. His unabashed hypocrisy and arrogance has undermined his ability to be an effective member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a trustworthy advocate for Tennesseans.
Yet the Tennessee Republican Party and your party’s leadership continue to defend and support a man who deserves no defense.
For leaders, integrity is not an optional tool to be applied in convenient situations. There are certain times when true leaders need to step up and make the difficult decision to hold one of their own accountable for betraying their values.
Instead, the Tennessee Republican Party’s approval and support of DesJarlais’ unethical behavior and hypocrisy make it clear that Republican principles — from abortion to ethics — are meaningless when confronted with the prospect of having to hold one of their own accountable.
There’s no integrity in a party that believes in a different set of rules for its members than it does for the citizens it seeks to govern.
In light of DesJarlais’ indiscretions and the Republican Party’s refusal to hold him accountable, only one question remains: What are you going to do about it?
• Should your party continue supporting Rep. DesJarlais and investing in his candidacy — even as more details of his sex scandal and professional misconduct emerge?
• Should he be allowed to continue shaming Tennesseans in the U.S. Congress, where he will pretend to be useful despite the imprisoning cloud of scandal hanging over his office?
• In these trying times and with important work at hand, can we afford to have one member of our congressional delegation constantly distracted by the prospect of having to cover up his doctor-patient sex scandal?
His continued presence in the Congress undermines our state’s credibility, and quite frankly, the integrity of your party. Trust and honor cannot be restored to the 4th Congressional District if your party leaders refuse to impose consequences for Rep. DesJarlais’ unethical misconduct and violations of state law. For the good of Tennessee, and for the good of our country, Rep. Scott DesJarlais should resign from the United States Congress.
Should you be interested in taking action against Rep. DesJarlais to reestablish the integrity of our state, please feel free to contact me. If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (615) 327-9779.
We look forward to your favorable reply.
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