Some Republican activists want an explanation from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais as he approaches a week of silence on court records showing he supported his ex-wife's two abortions before declaring himself "a consistent supporter of pro-life values."
"He lied. That's about all you can say," said Liz Holiway, a Tennessee Republican Party state executive committeewoman who represents portions of DesJarlais' 4th District. "Not saying that a lot of other politicians haven't. But I think something should be done."
On Thursday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published court records that included the abortion revelations and DesJarlais' own admission that he had sexual relationships with two patients, three coworkers and a pharmaceutical saleswoman while serving as chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center.
"Obviously we're disappointed and disturbed that this has all come to light," said longtime GOP activist Oscar Brock. "It's not good stuff. He needs to explain."
Most of Tennessee's top Republican officeholders have stayed quiet on DesJarlais despite their own anti-abortion rhetoric and appeals to "family values." But on Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam joined numerous rank-and-file activists in questioning how effective DesJarlais can be as a congressman since the news broke.
"I think the congressman's decision is, can I effectively represent the people who elected me," Haslam told The Tennessean after a public appearance in Nashville. "It's not my call. It's his decision."
Among other looming questions, DesJarlais hasn't addressed how the two abortions affected his current belief system or voting record. Ten years before the National Right to Life awarded him a 100 percent voting score, the congressman testified one of his ex-wife's abortions occurred because "things weren't going well between us, and it was a mutual decision."