Scott DesJarlais

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Scott DesJarlais
Scott DesJarlais, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded by Lincoln Davis
Personal details
Born Scott Eugene DesJarlais
(1964-02-21) February 21, 1964 (age 51)
Des Moines, Iowa
Political party Republican
  • Susan DesJarlais (div. 1998).
  • Amy DesJarlais (m. 2002)
Children 3
Residence South Pittsburg, Tennessee
Alma mater University of South Dakota
Profession Physician
Religion Episcopalian
Website Official website

Scott Eugene DesJarlais[1] (/ˈdʒɑːrl/; born February 21, 1964) is an American politician and physician currently serving as U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 4th congressional district after winning re-election on November 4, 2014.[2] The district, the state's largest, stretches across a large and mostly rural swath of East and Middle Tennessee. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Early life, education, and medical career[edit]

DesJarlais was born in 1964 in Des Moines, Iowa to Joe DesJarlais, a barber, and Sylvia, a registered nurse.[3] He grew up in Sturgis, South Dakota.[4] Desjarlais earned his undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Psychology from the University of South Dakota in 1987 and later his Doctor of Medicine from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in 1991.[5] He moved to East Tennessee in 1993 to practice medicine as a generalist.[6]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In 2009, DesJarlais entered politics, filing papers to challenge Democratic incumbent Lincoln Davis,[7] as well as Independents Paul H. Curtis, James Gray, Richard S. Johnson, and Gerald York.[8] DesJarlais defeated Davis 57%–39%,[9] the third-largest defeat of a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 cycle, and the first time that an incumbent had been unseated in the district since 1983.


DesJarlais was challenged by Democratic nominee and state senator Eric Stewart. Prior to the 2012 election, the Fourth District was significantly altered as a result of redistricting. Notably, Murfreesboro, formerly the heart of the 6th District, was shifted into the 4th. The redrawn 4th contains about half of the constituents who resided in the former 4th district, with 14 of 24 counties being moved elsewhere by redistricting.[10] For a time, it was thought that DesJarlais would face a primary challenge from state senator Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro resident and the chairman of the state senate redistricting committee. However, Ketron decided that he wouldn't run.

DesJarlais defeated Stewart 56%–44%[11][12] joining all the other incumbent members of Tennessee congressional delegation who also won their re-election bids.[13]


DesJarlais was considered one of the most vulnerable Congressmen, because of revelations in October 2012 that he had prescribed drugs to a patient with whom he was having an affair and had pressured his former wife and former mistress to have several abortions. He was re-elected in 2012 with a reduced majority.[14] Despite these vulnerabilities, DesJarlais managed to hold his seat.[15][16]

State Senator Jim Tracy challenged DesJarlais in the primary.[17] At the end of June 2013, Tracy had raised nearly $750,000 (including over $300,000 in the second quarter of 2013) for his bid.[18] He raised an additional $150,000 in the fourth quarter and reported $840,000 cash-on-hand.[14] By contrast, at the end of September, DesJarlais reported $170,000 cash-on-hand.[14] DesJarlais won the primary by a margin of 38 votes. Tracy decided not to challenge the results, despite citing irregularities.[19]


DesJarlais is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the 2016 cycle.[20] The combination of personal scandals and attacks from Starrett on DesJarlais' voting record have combined to make POLITICO rate this as one of the top five primary races in the nation to watch for 2016.[21]

In 2015, Grant Starrett, an attorney and conservative activist from Murfreesboro, announced he would challenge Scott DesJarlais in the Republican primary. Starrett raised $826,000 in the first six months of the race,[22] and garnered endorsements from conservative radio hosts Hugh Hewitt and Erick Erickson, and the conservative Power Line Blog.[23]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus Memberships[edit]

  • Congressional Cement Caucus

Personal life[edit]

DesJarlais and his first wife, Susan, finalized their divorce in 2001; they have one child.[24] DesJarlais and his second wife, Amy, met and married in 2002.[25]


During the election campaigns, events from DesJarlais' personal life became public, making the 2012 race against Stewart "one of the ugliest Tennessee congressional races in decades".[26] Stories that surfaced included the fact that during the divorce proceedings, DesJarlais' first wife Susan had alleged that her ex-husband engaged in "violent and threatening behavior".[27] Court filings revealed that he had at least four affairs.[28] One was with a female patient. According to the Huffington Post, tapes that DesJarlais himself recorded, show that he pressured her to have an abortion after she became pregnant.[29][30] A second woman came forward, stating that she began dating DesJarlais while she was his patient. She alleges that the two smoked marijuana together and he prescribed pain medications for her while at his house.[31]

In October 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested that the Tennessee Department of Health investigate evidence that DesJarlais had a sexual relationship with a patient, an allegation that could open the congressman to disciplinary action for potentially violating medical ethics.[32][33] In November 2012, the same group filed another complaint against DesJarlais with the Office of Congressional Ethics, claiming that the Congressman lied about a telephone conversation with a former patient and mistress.[34] On November 15, 2012—two weeks after the election—the Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained a transcript of DesJarlais' 2001 divorce proceeding with his first wife. It revealed that DesJarlais had admitted under oath to at least six sexual relationships with people he came in contact with while chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper. Among them were at least two patients. The state Democratic Party had fought to get the transcript released before the election, but the transcript—which ran to 679 typed pages—was not complete at the time. The transcript also revealed that contrary to his staunch anti-abortion stance as a congressman, he had counseled his then-wife to have two abortions and pressured one of the patients with whom he'd had an affair to get an abortion. Additional transcripts revealed that he had prescribed pain pills to at least one patient with whom he'd had an affair. He was later fined $500 by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for the affairs.[35][36][37]

Tennessee Department of Health Reprimand[edit]

Desjarlais was formally disciplined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for medical ethics violations committed while pursuing his affairs. He was fined 500 dollars and reprimanded. He did not contest the charges.[38]


In July 2014, DesJarlais announced he was undergoing aggressive chemotherapy to treat cancer in his neck which had spread to a lymph node.[39][40] While the exact specifics of the cancer were not disclosed, Desjarlais has indicated the cancer has affected his voice[41] and is incurable 10% of the time.[39] The cancer and chemotherapy have been given as the cause of over forty pounds of weight loss, limiting Desjarlais' ability to make appearances and campaign.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Campaign contributions". Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Bad boys survive to win re-election". CNN. November 6, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Henry, Larry (August 23, 2010). "Tight race forecast in 4th Congressional District". Chattanooga Times Free Press. 
  5. ^ "Scott Desjarlais". Voteocracy. Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Tennessee's new U.S. representative a Sturgis native : Community". Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ "General Election State Candidates" (PDF). Retrieved October 11, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Tennessee Election Results". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Collins, Michael (October 26, 2012). "DesJarlais has to scramble with new district alignment » Knoxville News Sentinel". Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  11. ^ "". Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Tennessee election results". CNN. November 2012. Archived from the original on November 12, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  13. ^ "DesJarlais Wins Second Term Despite Scandal". (Nashville: CBS). November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b c Emily Cahn (January 27, 2014). "DesJarlais Primary Challenger Flush With Cash for 2014". Roll Call. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  15. ^ Hamby, Peter. "Bad boys survive to win re-election". CNN. Retrieved March 24, 2015. 
  16. ^ Isenstadt, Alex. "Good election year for bad boys of Congress". Politico. Retrieved March 24, 2015. 
  17. ^ Sher, Andy (January 3, 2013). "Tracy kicks off campaign to take on DesJarlais". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  18. ^ Trygstad, Kyle (July 10, 2013). "DesJarlais Challenger Posts Big Fundraising Haul #TN04". Roll Call. Retrieved July 11, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Jim Tracy will not contest 38-vote loss to Scott DesJarlais". The Murfreesburo Post. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Old Divorce File Riles Tennessee". Roll Call. September 16, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010. 
  25. ^ Collins, Michael (November 1, 2012). "DesJarlais spouse: He's a good husband and father". Knoxville News Sentinel. 
  26. ^ Sher, Andy (November 7, 2012). "Scott DesJarlais holds lead (with video)". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  27. ^ Woods, Jeff (September 16, 2010). "Papers from DesJarlais' Bitter Divorce Pop Up in Media". National Scene. 
  28. ^ McAuliff, Michael (October 28, 2012). "Scott DesJarlais' Second Mistress: Another Woman Claims Affair With Tennessee Congressman". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  29. ^ McAuliff, Michael (October 10, 2012). "Scott DesJarlais, Pro-Life Republican Congressman And Doctor, Pressured Mistress Patient To Get Abortion". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais pressed mistress to get an abortion, report says". October 10, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  31. ^ "2nd Scott DesJarlais girlfriend talks". Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  32. ^ Sisk, Chas (October 16, 2012). "Rep. Scott DesJarlais faces ethics complaint over relationship". The Tennessean. Retrieved October 29, 2012. 
  33. ^ Viebeck, Elise (October 15, 2012). "Ethics complaint filed against DesJarlais". The Hill. Retrieved October 29, 2012. 
  34. ^ Barton, Paul C. (November 27, 2012). "Watchdog group files ethics complaint against Rep. Scott DesJarlais". The Tennessean. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  35. ^ Michael McAuliff (November 16, 2012). "Scott DesJarlais Approved Wife's Abortion, Slept With Coworkers, Patients, Court Records Say". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 25, 2012. 
  36. ^ "U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais fined for sex with 2 patients". Times Free Press. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  37. ^ Chris Carroll; Kate Harrison (November 15, 2012). "Scott DesJarlais supported ex-wife's abortions, slept with patients, divorce transcript shows". Chattanooga Times Free Press. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ a b Barton, Paul (July 11, 2014). "Rep. DesJarlais fighting cancer". USA Today. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Scott DesJarlais diagnosed with cancer". Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  41. ^ "DesJarlais makes first appearance since cancer treatment". Retrieved March 28, 2015. 
  42. ^ Wilson, Brian. "Ill health restricts Scott DesJarlais campaign". Retrieved March 22, 2015. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lincoln Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 4th congressional district

January 3, 2011 – present
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Denham
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Sean Duffy