Political News

Abortion double-cross was beginning of end for congressman

Posted October 6

— U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy had counted on his anti-abortion record as one of many planks to help him get elected to Congress eight times, and it was his perceived personal betrayal of that record that ended his career.

For Murphy, a practicing psychologist, author and former commander in the Navy Reserves who had made mental health treatment a signature issue, everything began falling apart when his hometown newspaper revealed Tuesday that the congressman had suggested a mistress get an abortion when they thought she might be pregnant.

It was the beginning of the end for Murphy's 20-year political career.

Voters, talk show hosts, party officials and anti-abortion activists turned against Murphy. Two days later, Murphy informed House Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Tom Wolf that he would resign Oct. 21.

"I'm very disappointed," said Vinnie Richichi, sipping coffee Friday morning outside a coffee shop a few blocks from Murphy's suburban Pittsburgh district office.

Richichi, a 62-year-old Democrat who had crossed party lines to vote for Murphy, called him "another politician where what's good for everyone else isn't good enough for him."

Murphy, 65, has remained publicly silent, other than a brief statement saying he would seek help as he and his family work through their "difficulties."

He had been in the state Senate representing suburban Pittsburgh when the party carved up the shrinking population of western Pennsylvania into new congressional districts, creating a Republican-friendly district tailored for Murphy.

He ran and won the open seat in 2002, with the help of Democrats who were accustomed to backing Republicans for president.

Murphy has since held pro-labor positions to stitch together support from Pittsburgh's influential blue-collar unions with bedrock conservative groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, National Rifle Association and National Right to Life Committee.

His anti-abortion voting record was 100 percent. He won AFL-CIO endorsements. His 70 percent lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union put him in the middle of the pack of Pennsylvania's 13 Republicans in the U.S. House. Opponents and supporters alike say he was everywhere in the district, from high school football games to church food fairs.

He has since coasted to re-election, and even run unopposed the last two elections.

A month ago, one of Murphy's affairs became public in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the newspaper won a court motion to unseal the woman's divorce case.

Then on Tuesday, the Post-Gazette published a six-page memorandum from Murphy's congressional chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, dated June 8, in which she accused Murphy of subjecting his staff members to "threats, hostility, anger and harassment."

It also published text messages between Murphy and Shannon Edwards, with whom he was having an affair. In one, she told him he had "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."

The newspaper also referenced an email last year to Edwards in which Murphy admitted to another affair with a woman named Susan.

It was the perceived hypocrisy on the abortion issue that most inflamed party officials, anti-abortion activists and voters from across the political spectrum.

The local party was turning against Murphy, said Val DiGiorgio, the Pennsylvania state party chairman.

A Democratic voter in the district, Lisa Sweeney, didn't mince words.

"He has been voting consistently to limit women's ability to manage their own bodies and he's doing it from the pulpit, and in the end it's a sham," Sweeney, 40, said after having lunch at deli down the street from Murphy's district office.

Marty Griffin, the conservative host of a popular daily radio show on Pittsburgh's KDKA-AM, said on his show Wednesday that stories about Murphy's affairs and treatment of staff had been around a long time and were "old news."

But Murphy's perceived two-faced stance on abortion rights is different.

"If there's ever hypocrisy, that would be this," Griffin said. It is, he said, "your typical sleaze story that comes out of politics."

___

Levy reported from Harrisburg.

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