NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A national political action committee on Monday launched $180,000 worth of television ads against Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who is anti-abortion rights, for reports that he once urged a mistress to terminate a pregnancy.
"The bottom line is this: Scott DesJarlais shouldn't be in Congress," Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, said in a statement.
The House Majority PAC's ads are running in the Nashville and Chattanooga markets which reach population centers on both ends of the 4th Congressional District. The group associated with Democratic congressional leaders had previously spent $100,000 on ads in the race.
DesJarlais' campaign platform includes his opposition to abortion rights. He has argued he was using strong language to try to pressure the woman, who was a his patient, to admit she was not pregnant.
Democrat Eric Stewart raised twice as much as DesJarlais in the most recent reporting period. While the incumbent still held a 3-to-1 advantage in cash on hand, the House Majority PAC's ad buy has nearly wiped out that difference.
DesJarlais' polling has confirmed the negative ads appear to have solidified the Democratic base in the district, but the campaign claims they have had little effect on Republicans and independents.
The conversation between DesJarlais and the woman who had also been under his care as a Jasper physician took place while he was trying to reconcile with his first wife, Susan. The divorce was finalized in 2001.
"You told me you'd have an abortion, and now we're getting too far along without one," DesJarlais told the woman who is not identified in the transcript. "If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let's do it."
The DesJarlais campaign has dismissed the details as "old news" that emerged in the last election cycle. But while the 2010 campaign did feature allegations raised during his divorce that he intimidated his ex-wife with a gun — and in one instance put a gun in his mouth for three hours — the abortion element was not public knowledge until this month.
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester on Monday called for DesJarlais to resign.
"He's not fit to be a doctor, and he's definitely not fit to be in Congress," Forrester said.
DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis said in an email that the congressman has "absolutely no intention of resigning."