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Scott DesJarlais's past continues to haunt him

Flickr/Congressman Darrell Issa

A couple of years ago, Scott DesJarlais, then a Republican congressional candidate in a competitive Tennessee district, was confronted with troubling allegations from his past. During a messy break-up with his ex-wife, DesJarlais allegedly held a gun in his mouth for three hours, "dry fired" a gun outside his wife's locked bedroom door, and was accused of other forms of spousal abuse.

A few months later, DesJarlais nevertheless defeated incumbent Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) in a landslide.

Two years later, the Republican lawmaker has a new, related issue that may be slightly harder to overcome.

A pro-life, family-values congressman who worked as a doctor before winning election as a Tea Party-backed Republican had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion, according to a phone call transcript obtained by The Huffington Post.

The congressman, Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, was trying to save his marriage at the time, according to his remarks on the call, made in September of 2000. And, according to three independent sources familiar with the call and the recording, he made the tape himself.

When the Huffington Post provided a copy of the tape's transcript to DesJarlais, the conservative congressman did not deny its contents, but dismissed its relevance, accusing his opponents of "gutter politics."

Overcoming these revelations, however, may require a little more. The materials "paint a more damning picture of a man who was a serial philanderer willing to push one of his lovers -- whom he met as a patient with a foot problem -- to terminate a pregnancy, even when he suspected he was the father."

To put it mildly, it's quite a sordid tale. DesJarlais committed adultery by sleeping with a patient, then pressured his mistress to have an abortion in the hopes of hiding his misdeeds from the wife he allegedly abused. Why he deliberately recorded the conversation is unclear.

The affair was one of "at least four" extra-marital relationships DesJarlais admitted in court documents.

The conservative Republican freshman is seeking re-election this year, and local polling suggests he's a strong favorite to win, though it remains to be seen whether this new report will affect his chances.