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Doug Hampton’s TV interview about his wife’s affair with Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is hardly a model of clarity. Hampton meanders away from some questions, jumps forwards and back in time, and seems, perhaps understandably, still to have trouble viewing the situation dispassionately.
But there’s one point on which Hampton is particularly lucid. He clearly says that when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) confronted Ensign over the affair in February 2008, the Oklahoma senator 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. And Coburn isn’t denying it.
Let’s look closely at what Hampton said.
He told his interviewer, Jon Ralston, that in February 2008, he went to a group of men associated with C Street, the Christian fellowship that has a house on Capitol Hill, and asked them to confront Ensign.
Said Hampton: “So I confront him with these men, and Tom Coburn.” (Coburn has also been associated with the C Street fellowship, and his role in the Ensign confrontation was mentioned in Hampton’s letter to Fox News, which came out last month.)
Asked by Ralston about the charge from the Ensign camp that Hampton had tried to extort him, Hampton continued:
The first money that was presented was from these men that confronted John. These men were the ones that said, ‘what we need to do is get Doug Hampton’s home paid for, and we need to get Doug Hampton some money, and we need to get his family to Colorado.
The money and all those things came from this group initiating, initially, what they believed it was gonna take to take care of this.
Asked by Ralston whether he or his lawyer asked Ensign for money, Hampton replied:
Our attorneys did talk…because Sen Tom Coburn asked and was involved in these negotiations out of good will and good faith.
When Ralston asked what those negotiations were for, Hampton replied: “The belief from Tom Coburn and many that some restitution needs to take place here.” He added, a bit later: “They just thought this was gonna be best for both of our lives.”
Ralston then went over things one last time, to make sure there was no mistake:
Tom Coburn, a US senator, told John Ensign, listen you gotta deal with this, make these folks whole, let them get out of your life, and let’s move on. Isn’t that exactly what happened?
Replied Hampton: “Absolutely.”
Seems pretty clear. And here’s how Coburn’s office has responded to the claim. In a statement to Politico, it said:
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.
Coburn spokesman John Hart wouldn’t confirm or deny whether his boss spoke with Ensign about payments but said Coburn “categorically denies” Hampton’s claim that he urged Ensign to pay millions to the couple.
(Hampton appears to say in the interview that the “millions” figure was discussed between his and Ensign’s lawyer after Coburn had urged Ensign to pay restitution, not that Coburn himself said the figure should be millions.)
If Coburn acted to urge his friend to end the affair, and to help him keep it private, it would be hard to blame him. But if, as now seems likely, he pressed Ensign to pay a significant amount of money in restitution to Hampton and his family, that would seem, at a minimum, to place Coburn, as a US senator, in a very difficult position indeed. Something tells us this won’t be the last we’ll be hearing on this.
Late Update: Coburn has now given what appears to be a categorical denial that he urged Ensign to pay restitution to the Hamptons.