If Tennessee Democrat party officials thought they would get a quick look at a Republican congressman's divorce documents, they are learning that may not be the case even though a Chattanooga judge granted their release Monday afternoon.
It's the latest wrinkle to the development that could be critical to the outcome of Tuesday's election between incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais and Democrat challenger Eric Stewart.
A Democratic Party official told Nashville's News 2 that the court reporter transcribing the testimony from the divorce proceeding will not release the documents until she is finished with all of the estimated 700-pages.
“It could be hours, or days,” Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese said.
Earlier Monday while walking away from the Chattanooga courthouse where a judge reviewed the divorce records after the request for their release, the freshman Republican congressman told reporters “One thing we can clear up is that these divorce records were never sealed, you all have been reporting that they are sealed divorce records, they have never been sealed.”
DesJarlais then told reporters to, “Go do your own homework.”
They are some of the first public words from the pro-life congressman since a Huffington Post report in early October that linked the medical doctor to a patient who he pressed to get an abortion after the two had been dating.
Chattanooga judge Jacqueline Bolton is considering the Tennessee Democratic Party request to open up portions of the congressman's divorce proceedings, because party chair Chip Forrester believes it will show DesJarlais as “one who sleeps with his patients, one who prescribes drugs on dates and is not fit to be a doctor, not fit to be a congressman.”
In a hearing which continued into the afternoon, the judge has indicated the divorce transcript could be released as early as Monday, one day before the election.
The DesJarlais divorce issue has bolstered the campaign of opponent Eric Stewart who started receiving House Democrat money from Washington when it appeared some voters might have second thoughts about DesJarlais because of what he did as a physician.
His campaign believes its polling indicates a close race, but Stewart has distanced himself from the court action telling Nashville's News 2 last week, “The Tennessee Democratic Party is going to do what it's going to do.”
The Democrat went on to say though that DesJarlais's record as a physician is relevant because “he inserted it into the race by putting doctor on all his ads.”
DesJarlais in ads has called the revelations “recycled garbage” but did not dispute the accusations.
The congressman said he “used harsh language” in a recorded phone conversation with the unidentified woman 12-years ago in order to “get her to tell the truth that there was no pregnancy.”
The Tennessee Democratic Party hopes to find out if those claims are backed up in the testimony and court transcripts from DesJarlais's divorce trial involving his first wife.
DesJarlais released the following statement after Monday's events, “The sole reason I appeared in Chattanooga today was to protect my children from these desperate attacks being driven by the Tennessee Democratic Party, Lincoln Davis and my ex-wife.”
“My opponent and his far-left political allies have done all they can to make this election about everything besides my record in Congress. In fact, it seems that the only opponent that I have ever had to run against is a 14 year old divorce. Despite their efforts, we have remained focused on issues that are important to Tennesseans. Tomorrow's election results will show that voters are tired of the gutter politics and want someone with a proven track record of fighting to grow jobs, cut spending and pay down our debt.
“It is important to note that these records were never sealed although the media has inaccurately reported otherwise.”
Stewart fired back by saying, “Congressman DesJarlais is under investigation by the Tennessee Medical Board for sleeping with his own patients, he's been asked to resign by the Tennessee Conservative Union, and, more importantly he continues to hide from the media and from voters.”
“If he's so proud of his record in Congress, then why has he refused to defend it in front of voters? He's a do-nothing Congressman and a do-nothing candidate with a history of intimidation, abusing power, and blaming others. His campaign continuously throws around labels and blames other people, but only one person slept with his patients, told a patient she needed to go to Atlanta and have an abortion, and had four affairs while still married. That person is Congressman DesJarlais. This isn't about dirty politics – it's about a dirty politician. Voters deserve better.”
- Nov. 2, 2012: Scott DesJarlais keeps low profile before vote next week
- Oct. 18, 2012: 4th District voters weigh in on DesJarlais allegations
- Oct. 12, 2012: Rep. DesJarlais responds to abortion recording allegations
- Oct. 10, 2012: Rep. Scott DesJarlais urged mistress to have abortion