By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
Scott DesJarlais, a family doctor from the outback of Tennessee, is stridently pro-life, known for his righteous denunciations of abortion and adultery.
"All life should be cherished and protected," he declares on his website. Except when that life poses an inconvenience for Scott DesJarlais.
His problems began when he cheated on his first wife in an affair with a patient and the patient got pregnant.
To save his marriage — and prove the affair was over — the Tennessee Tomcat devised the most misguided cover-up since Watergate. He secretly recorded a conversation with his mistress in which he pressured her to get an abortion.
The cherished life of his child had become a "problem" that needed to be "fixed."
"You told me you'd have an abortion," DesJarlais says on the tape. "And now we're getting too far along without one."
As you might expect, his ham-fisted reconciliation plan backfired. As it turns out, DesJarlais wasn't just a serial philanderer; he'd also spent years compiling frequent-flier miles at Planned Parenthood.
Last November, the congressman's 700-page divorce-trial testimony went public. In it, he admitted to affairs with three coworkers, a drug rep, and two other patients. He also confessed to encouraging his wife to get two abortions before they were married.
But these revelations didn't move DesJarlais to a healthy round of soul-searching. Instead, he played the victim card, blaming a political opponent for "false, personal attacks."
When that didn't work — he'd taped his own confession, after all — he took cover in religion, claiming that God had given him a mulligan.
"I know God's forgiven me," DesJarlais announced. "I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to do the same." In other words, if his constituents weren't up for "grace and redemption," they were rejecting direct orders from the Lord himself.
DesJarlais was abandoned by members of his own party. The Tennessee Conservative Union, the largest and oldest right-wing group in the state, demanded that he resign.
"The level of shamefulness was unprecedented," says Tennessee Democratic spokesman Brandon Puttbrese. "This is a doctor who had sex with patients and then tried to lecture people on health-care policy, as if he gave a good damn about being an ethical physician."
Yet the cloak of God still trumps hypocrisy in the fundamentalist backwaters of middle Tennessee. DesJarlais was reelected by a comfortable margin last fall, allowing him to carry on as Washington's official face of grace and redemption.
Burning Through Billions on Quack Science
In January, Sen. Tom Harkin announced that he would retire in 2015. Washington was soon to lose its biggest advocate for questionable science.
Harkin is most responsible for the creation and continued survival of a little-known office called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. If it sounds relatively harmless, that's the problem.
Harkin's interest in alternative medicine came from personal experience. After trying everything to rid himself of a hay-fever allergy, the senator reportedly found relief through heavy dosing of bee pollen, taking up to 60 pills a day.
At the time, he happened to be chairman of a subcommittee responsible for funding the National Institutes of Health. So in 1991, he introduced a law that would allow the agency to "investigate and validate... unconventional medical practices" — like his bee pollen cure.
"This was the equivalent of a politician starting an organization to investigate UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, and every other kooky conspiracy theory that's out there," says Alex Berezow, editor of online site RealClearScience and author of the book Science Left Behind. "This was the X-Files of medical research."
Investigating is certainly something the center has done. It's the validating part that has caused trouble, much to Harkin's dismay.
Though the agency's budget started at a paltry $2 million, like everything else in Washington, it has metastasized, to nearly $130 million annually. It has blown through billions testing dubious "cures" better left to late-night infomercials: the effect of distant prayer on AIDS, harp music on stress levels, therapeutic touch on bone cancer.
Unsurprisingly, not one of these methods has proven effective. In fact, in his attempt to legitimize alternative medicine, Harkin has actually accomplished the opposite: He's managed to nearly discredit it entirely.
Study after center study has shown that placebos are just as effective as Harkin's homeopathic miracles. In some cases, the "cures" were actually found to make things worse, as when the center discovered that St. John's wort rendered certain cancer drugs less effective.
That the scientific method is able to weed the good from the bad would seem to be the one positive outcome of Harkin's two-decade misadventure. Yet the senator sees it as "discrimination," lamenting that his agency has been "disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things."
Unfortunately for Harkin, that's how science works.
When Tragedy Strikes, You Can Never Go Wrong by Blaming the Muslims
Dana Rohrabacher isn't a central-casting conservative. The Laguna Beach congressman surfs, wears Hawaiian shirts under his blazers, and has admitted to doing everything except slurp the bongwater when it comes to drugs.
But when it comes to seeing Muslims around every dark corner, Rohrabacher is the self-anointed flag-bearer of the Republican fringe.