Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has long been a far-right culture warrior, especially on matters related to reproductive rights, but he's also been kind of odd about it. Evidently, it's worse than we realized.
About a month ago, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette prevailed in a court motion to unseal a divorce action and uncovered evidence that the Pennsylvania Republican had an extramarital affair with a personal friend. Confronted with the proof, Murphy admitted that he'd cheated on his wife.
Yesterday, the Post-Gazette published a related report, noting that after Murphy published an anti-abortion statement to his Facebook account, his former mistress sent him a text message calling him out for hypocrisy.
"And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options," Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare.
A text from Mr. Murphy's cell phone number that same day in response says, "I get what you say about my March for life messages. I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will."
The congressman has been lauded by the Family Research Council, for his stance on abortion, as well as for family values, generally. He also has been endorsed by LifePAC, which opposes abortion rights, and is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, an affiliation that is often cited by his office.
The Washington Post added that just days after he talked to his then-mistress about having an abortion, Murphy issued multiple public statement condemning abortion.
Murphy's office told NBC News late yesterday, "The office has no comment or response to the story." I suppose that isn't especially surprising, since this one's a tough story to spin.
We'll learn soon enough whether the controversy will cost the GOP congressman his career, but don't assume Murphy is finished. In Republican politics, members are expected to be social conservatives, but there's an enormous amount of tolerance for those who betray those principles.
As regular readers may recall, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) was caught having multiple extra-marital affairs, and in more than once instance, he reportedly urged the women in his life to abort unwanted pregnancies.
DesJarlais nevertheless remains a four-term Republican lawmaker in good standing.
For that matters, there's a guy by the name of Donald J. Trump who, among other things, is a thrice-married serial adulterer, who was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women, and who was accused by several women of assaulting them. And yet, social conservatives are among the president's most ardent and enthusiastic supporters.
In fact, evangelical Christians back Trump with such vigor that they've suddenly become one of the nation's most accepting constituencies of politicians with moral failings -- after having been one of least accepting as recently as 2011.
To be sure, the latest news is humiliating for Tim Murphy, but to assume the party and its base will turn on him is to misunderstand the right's expectations.