W. David Hager gets probed

As a prolifer and a Bush appointee to an FDA advisory committee, W. David Hager has seen his share of fierce opposition. It's likely to grow fiercer still amid disturbing allegations made by his former wife. Conservative Christians and other prolifers are bound to experience a high rectal squirm factor today as Ayelish McGarvey's cover story for the May 30 issue of The Nation begins to circulate. Hager stands accused of, among other things, forced sodomy and paying his wife for sex.

Linda Carruth Davis, Hager's ex-wife and his coauthor on Stress and the Woman's Body, tells McGarvey she decided to go public with these allegations after hearing Hager discuss their divorce during a chapel service at Asbury College. McGarvey researched the story diligently, finding several people who recall Davis as making such allegations while she was still married to Hager. (Davis says her allegations apply to the final seven years of their 32-year marriage.) McGarvey writes that Hager spoke with her for nearly 30 minutes, all off the record, other than adding, "My official comment is that I decline to comment."

McGarvey, who has written about evangelicals and politics before in her job with The American Prospect, does not indulge in glib dismissals based on Hager's Christian faith:

David Hager is not the fringe character and fundamentalist faith healer that some of his critics have made him out to be. In fact, he is a well-credentialed doctor. In Kentucky Hager has long been recognized as a leading Ob-Gyn at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital and a faculty member at the University of Kentucky's medical school. And in the 1990s several magazines, including Modern Healthcare and Good Housekeeping, counted him among the best doctors for women in the nation.

At one point McGarvey interrupts her brisk narrative with an awkward assurance that this is not Zippergate all over again:

(Lest inappropriate analogies be drawn between the Hager accusations and the politics of personal destruction that nearly brought down the presidency of Bill Clinton, it ought to be remembered that President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was never alleged to be criminal and did not affect his ability to fulfill his obligations to the nation. This, of course, did not stop the religious right from calling for his head. "The topic of private vs. public behavior has emerged as perhaps the central moral issue raised by Bill Clinton's 'improper relationship,'" wrote evangelist and Hager ally Franklin Graham at the time. "But the God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. There needs to be no clash between personal conduct and public appearance.")

So far no other magazine or newspaper has taken up the sexual allegations against Hager. Today's Washington Post takes up only those aspects of McGarvey's report that concern a memo by Hager that may have swayed an FDA ruling against Plan B, a birth-control pill that Hagee opposed for its possible effects on girls younger than 16.

McGarvey's report brings troubling ethical allegations to light, and conservative pundits would do well not to leave all the follow-up to Atrios and other bloggers.

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