Rep. Tim Murphy, popular with pro-life movement, urged abortion in affair, texts suggest
A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office’s public account.
“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 text message exchange was included among a series of documents obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Ms. Edwards declined to comment on the documents.
Repeated voice mail messages left on Mr. Murphy’s cell phone on Tuesday were not returned.
Another — a six-page memo to Mr. Murphy purportedly written by his chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk — described a hostile workplace in which Mr. Murphy repeatedly denigrated employees, threatened them and created a state of “terror.”
Ms. Mosychuk could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts Tuesday to speak with her. A staff member in Mr. Murphy’s office said the congressman’s communications director, Carly Atchison, was also unavailable after apparently conferring with Ms. Atchison.
“We have received your message and goodbye,” the staffer said before hanging up.
The June 8 memo, titled “Office Conduct and Behavior: Harassment/Legal Compliance,” says that there had been an “ongoing and ever more pronounced pattern of sustained inappropriate behavior” from the congressman.
The memo criticized his “inability to hire and retain competent staff, abysmal office morale,” as well as “hostile, erratic, unstable, angry, aggressive and abusive behavior.”
According to the memo, the office has had nearly 100 percent staff turnover in one year and that the office has lost more than 100 staffers since Ms. Mosychuk started working with Mr. Murphy. Ms. Mosychuk began working with him in 2003.
The memo says that its purpose was to detail the problems as they related to the office manual as well as the Congressional Accountability Act and seek corrective action.
The memo recounted events from June 2 and June 5 involving a visit Mr. Murphy made to his home district.
“You were storming around as we walked in, and as we sat down for prep — having just arrived literally moments ago — you started in on the [legislative director] and verbally abused him, harassed him, chastised him and criticized all his work products. You called many of the work products that he literally gave up his weekend to produce as ‘useless.’ You pushed other documents off the table onto the floor because they weren’t what you wanted. Then you got angry and demanded we find the documents that you had just thrown on the ground.”
The memo also referenced a town hall meeting Mr. Murphy held on June 5 and said that Mr. Murphy drove the car with staff to events later that day. As he drove in a torrential downpour, the memo says, his driving was “dangerous and erratic,” while he read his iPad, played YouTube videos and texted.
Mr. Murphy said in a Nov. 27 email to Ms. Edwards that he “fell into” a relationship with a woman named “Susan” when his daughter left for college.
“I did not see its toxicity until I was months into it,” he wrote to Ms. Edwards. He said he lacked the confidence to break it off. “I decided on a long term plan to try to stabilize my life abd[sic] extricate myself from that relationship by building my strength in other areas. While I was belittled and berated and while my confidence was at its nadir i decided to do some things to demonstrate my own courage.”
That is when he decided to join the Navy Reserves, he said.
According to military records, Mr. Murphy was commissioned on Jan. 1, 2009, and served in the Operational Health Support Unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., from September 2009 until April of this year.
He submitted his retirement on Sept. 11 and received an honorable discharge dated Sept. 13, records show.
As chief of staff, Ms. Mosychuk is paid $168,411. Ms. Mosychuk also drew pay from Mr. Murphy’s re-election campaigns, taking time off from her legislative job for the work, according to information provided on statements of financial disclosure that senior staff members are required to file. She reported receiving a total of $152,000 between 2008 and 2012, according to disclosures archived by the website LegiStorm. Data from 2014 was not immediately available, and she did not report earnings in 2016.
Ms. Mosychuk previously worked for former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Florida House of Representatives, and Citizens Against Government Waste.
The relationship between Mr. Murphy and Ms. Edwards was first exposed as part of her divorce proceedings from her husband, Jesse Sally, a sports medicine physician.
Dr. Sally filed for divorce from Ms. Edwards in July 2016. Then, this past summer, his attorney filed a request with the courts to depose Mr. Murphy as part of that court action.
Mr. Murphy and Ms. Edwards fought to quash the subpoena, but Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco denied their request, saying that the information Mr. Murphy would provide could be relevant to the underlying court action.
Judge Hens-Greco set a deadline of Sept. 29 for Mr. Murphy to be deposed.
That has still not happened, and argument on that and other issues is set for Wednesday.
In a statement he released on Sept. 6, Mr. Murphy portrayed what had occurred as “an affair with a personal friend,” but in court documents and testimony, Ms. Edwards presented it as a long-term relationship.
In the Nov. 27 email with Ms. Edwards, Mr. Murphy described his marriage as troubled.
He wrote that when he first met Ms. Edwards he was singularly focused on passing his mental health reform legislation following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I was not looking for a relationship with anyone,” he wrote. “But we formed a true bond. It grew deep and fast. It became love. It became in love.”
According to court records, Ms. Edwards’ relationship with Mr. Murphy began professionally regarding that mental health legislation in the fall of 2015, and developed first into a friendship and then months later into a romance. She alleges in court documents and testimony that there was no physical intimacy until May 2016 -— after she and her husband had technically separated.
Dr. Sally, in court records, alleges that the relationship with Mr. Murphy and Ms. Edwards began in February 2016.
It was early this year that the text exchange over abortion was prompted by a Jan. 24 Facebook post by Mr. Murphy: “The United States is one of just seven countries worldwide that permits elective abortion more than halfway through pregnancy (beyond 20 weeks). It is a tragic shame that America is leading the world in discarding and disregarding the most vulnerable,” he wrote.
Mr. Murphy noted in that post that he sponsored and voted for a bill prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions and said he had hope that “we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life from the moment of conception and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.”
He is currently a co-sponsor with 181 other legislators of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would bar abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or where the pregnancy poses a threat to the life or physical health of the mother. Mr. Murphy voted for the bill Tuesday evening, according to Roll Call. It passed 237 to 189.
Tracie Mauriello contributed. Chris Potter contributed. Paula Reed Ward: [email protected], 412-263-2620 or on Twitter: @PaulaReedWard.
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