When the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion last week, Republican lawmakers in Congress wasted no time celebrating the ruling.
But in the din of countless statements, tweets, and posts that Republicans released praising the end of Roe v. Wade, there was a conspicuous silence from one: Rep. Scott DesJarlais.
It’s not that the Tennessee Republican opposed the court’s decision. He campaigned on anti-abortion policy, proudly called himself “100 percent” anti-abortion, and is a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.
It just might be that DesJarlais isn’t exactly the best messenger on this particular topic.
In 2012, it came out that DesJarlais had urged his pregnant mistress to get an abortion—a stunning revelation that was caught on tape—and that his ex-wife had two abortions herself.
It was one of the wildest political scandals of that era, but somehow, DesJarlais kept getting elected in his deep-red Tennessee district. He has since claimed that God has “forgiven” him for his actions, not just the voters.
The online public, of course, is famously less merciful. And while DesJarlais has previously lent vocal support to bills that would deny to millions of people the option to terminate a pregnancy that he repeatedly enjoyed, the landmark decision from the Supreme Court has rendered him silent.
Since June 24, the day the decision was issued, DesJarlais has not tweeted about the downfall of abortion rights. In fact, he hasn’t tweeted about any subject, at all.
On his official Facebook page, DesJarlais also hasn’t posted anything since June 23, when he shared a photo of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol with a student group.
To be sure, some lawmakers just don’t tweet or post much, preferring to issue statements through their Capitol offices or to connect with a reporter to share their thoughts on big developments in Washington.
But DesJarlais’ office hasn’t issued an official statement on the Roe ruling at all. A Google search of DesJarlais’ most recent mentions in articles finds that he has not been quoted in any media in the last week.
Contacted by The Daily Beast, DesJarlais’ office did not respond to questions about why he had not made any public statements about the ruling.
DesJarlais is far from the first powerful politician whose public politics have been contradicted by sordid episodes from their personal life. But recent history offers few more drastic examples than the six-term congressman from Tennessee.
Scandal found DesJarlais, a physician by training, early in his career. During his first run for Congress in 2010, Roll Call reported that during DesJarlais’ divorce proceedings a decade earlier, his ex-wife accused him of disturbing forms of harassment and physical abuse.
He won a seat in Congress anyway. Then, just before the 2012 election, HuffPost reported that DesJarlais had in 2000 pressured his mistress—who also happened to be a patient in his medical practice—to get an abortion after she became pregnant.
According to the transcript that was obtained of DesJarlais’ call with his mistress, he told her, “well, we’ve got to do something soon. And you’ve even got to admit that because the clock is ticking, right?”
At another point, DesJarlais said, “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.”
But DesJarlais won that 2012 race, too, and two weeks after election day, local press obtained the full record of his divorce proceedings with his ex-wife. Under oath, the future congressman testified that he’d had at least six sexual relationships outside marriage—all with people connected to his medical practice—and that his wife had two abortions herself.
During his improbable 12-year service in Congress, DesJarlais has proudly touted a “100 percent” anti-abortion voting record. Notably, however, he is not named as one of the 113 co-sponsors of a bill that would ban abortion nationwide after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That legislation is one of several that a GOP-led Congress could advance next year, thanks to the overturning of Roe.