With all the excitement swirling around South Carolina’s Romeo governor and Alaska’s Greatest Martyr, that OTHER Republican sex scandal — you know, the one with Senator John Ensign of Nevada cuckolding his administrative assistant, Doug Hampton, who then tried to extort large sums of money from the Senator — got lost in the shuffle.

That Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) had been counseling Ensign on how best to handle his marital difficulties is old news. What’s NOT old news is Hampton’s assertion that during a C Street "intervention, Coburn advised Ensign to buy his way out of his troubles. Zach Roth over at TPM’s Muckraker has retrained the klieg lights on Senator Ensign:

Coburn urged Ensign to pay "restitution" to the Hamptons, including helping them to pay the mortgage on their $1.2 million house and to move out of state.

This is where things get a bit dicey for Tom Coburn. Coburn’s office didn’t refute Hampton’s assertions, and issued a statement:

Dr. Coburn did everything he could to encourage Sen. Ensign to end his affair and to persuade Sen. Ensign to repair the damage he had caused to his own marriage and the Hampton’s marriage. Had Sen. Ensign followed Dr. Coburn’s advice, this episode would have ended, and been made public, long ago.

Someone must have pointed out that Coburn’s advice was not exactly kosher, because his office then issued a follow-up statement in which he categorically denies that he recommended paying Hampton a bribe:

Coburn repeatedly denied allegations that he urged Ensign to pay Doug Hampton, the husband of his mistress Cynthia, millions in hush money following a confrontation with Hampton. "I categorically deny everything he said," Coburn said.

Coburn knows he’s in deep shit, because at this point, he’s pulling out the stops to avoid testifying before the Senate Ethics Committee or in a lawsuit:

I was counseling him as a physician and as an ordained deacon. … That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody. Not to the Ethics Committee, not to a court of law, not to anybody.

Well, isn’t that convenient. I asked our own Peterr to weigh in on this latest feint:

The title "deacon" is used in different denominations in different ways. It does fall under the broad category of ordained minister, but to claim privilege Coburn would have to demonstrate that he was acting in that capacity at the time of the conversation. Given the many conversations he held with Ensign in his capacity as a member of the Senate or as fellow members of the Republican party, he’d have to demonstrate that this one was different and conducted under the expectation of counselor/counselee or clergy/penitent confidentiality.

The big question is: If there were others there during this C Street intervention, does that negate any privilege Coburn might invoke, either as Ensign’s "preacher" or "doctor" (Coburn’s an OB-GYN, by the way)?

And finally, can either of Ensign’s parents claim a privilege, given that they paid the Hamptons $100K to shut the hell up?



NYC-based aquatic feline that likes long walks on the beach, illuminating the hypocrisies of "family values" Republicans, and engaging in snarling snarkitude.