National watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais to its list of “the most corrupt members of Congress,” adding to the embattled congressman’s list of things that make news copywriters everywhere use the adjective “embattled” to describe him.
None of the other members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation made the CREW cut.
The media release follows.
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Rep. DesJarlais, a licensed physician, engaged in inappropriate sexual relationships with two patients and made numerous false statements about his conduct, earning the congressman a place in CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, an annual, bipartisan look at Washington’s worst.
“The doctor-patient relationship is sacred, and a doctor who exploits that relationship to prey on women commits an undeniable abuse of power,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Rep. DesJarlais’ repeated crossing of that ethical boundary directly reflects on his fitness to serve in Congress.”
In and around 2000, while working as a physician and before his election to Congress, Rep. DesJarlais engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient. News reports revealing the affair quoted from the transcript of a phone call Rep. DesJarlais recorded between himself and his patient in which Rep. DesJarlais, who was married at the time, urged his patient to get an abortion. After the disclosure of the affair, Rep. DesJarlais claimed he was not involved in recording the phone conversation, contradicting sworn testimony he gave during his 2001 divorce proceedings. When the record of his testimony was made public, Rep. DesJarlais retreated from his previous statements. He has repeatedly said the woman was not pregnant and did not have an abortion, contrary to her own testimony during the divorce proceedings. Rep. DesJarlais also engaged in a sexual relationship with another patient, and prescribed painkillers for her on dates at his home.
In October 2012, CREW filed two complaints against Rep. DesJarlais with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. In May 2013, the board reached a consent agreement with Rep. DesJarlais, finding he had engaged in unprofessional conduct by maintaining sexual relationships with two patients, and fining him $250 for each patient with whom he had a relationship, as well as a maximum of $1,000 in costs.
“The Tennessee authorities’ inexcusably light punishment of Rep. DesJarlais sends the message that doctors who prey on their patients will get off with a slap on the wrist,” continued Sloan. “While the board may be unwilling to hold Rep. DesJarlais to account for his grossly unethical conduct, the public deserves better from its elected representatives.”
This is the ninth edition of CREW’s Most Corrupt report, an annual look at unethical conduct by members of Congress. This year’s list includes 6 Democrats and 11 Republicans; 10 are repeat offenders. Since 2005, CREW has named 88 members of Congress to the list, 45 of whom are no longer in office.