October 17, 2008 -- After dodging questions for nearly a week, Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) admitted today that he had multiple extramarital affairs and apologized for behavior he characterized as "disgraceful."
"Let me just be explicit that I am admitting to it...to having affairs," Mahoney said in an interview this afternoon with reporter Terri Parker at WPBF News 25, ABC News' affiliate in West Palm Beach. "My personal behavior has been unacceptable."
The interview comes after ABCNews.com "The Blotter" revealed this week that Mahoney had secretly paid a former mistress and campaign staffer, Patricia Allen, to prevent a sexual harassment lawsuit as well as helped lobby for federal funds for another county official with whom he was having an affair. Click here to hear the tape of Mahoney firing Allen.
In the approximately 20-minute long interview, Mahoney did not say exactly how many other women he had affairs with. "I don't know what other women are going to come out," he said.
But he discussed two specifically. He said the affair with Allen began during his 2006 campaign and had gone on intermittently until 2008.
He said his relationship with Allen -- a former campaign worker and one-time employee in his federal office "was totally inappropriate."
"I showed complete bad judgment on my part," he said, adding, "To allow myself to be put into that position was just stupid on my part."
He said that Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-Ill.), chair of the Democratic Caucus, had confronted him in 2007 about the affair and said "if that's happening stop."
"It wasn't a discussion, it wasn't a meeting, it was a statement," Mahoney said.
Asked why he didn't heed such warnings he said he'd made a series of bad decisions.
So when Allen threatened to sue him in February, Mahoney said he simply wanted to "sweep it under the rug."
"Forget about right or wrong, I wanted to hide it", he said. "I was ashamed of it."
"I Haven't Broken Any Laws."
He said that he paid $60,000 to Allen, $40,000 to her lawyer and another $20,000 to his lawyer -- all out of his "personal funds." He said his wife knew about the settlement before it became public this week.
But, he said, "I haven't violated my oath of office. I haven't broken any laws."
He also discussed his relationship with a second woman, a Martin County official, whom he had helped win a federal grant from FEMA to reimburse the county for clean up on private roads following the hurricanes in 2004.
He defended his help saying: "She wasn't awarded the grant. Martin County was awarded the grant."
He added: "The only people that benefited from getting that money were the taxpayers."
He did not explain why he had chosen relationships with women who worked for or closely with his office or campaign.
He said that he wasn't withdrawing from the race because he believed he had also done good work as a congressman.
While he said the people of his district deserved better leadership, he said he would let them decide whether his personal indiscretions disqualified him from office. "I let them down and I apologize for that," he said.
The hardest part of this situation, however, has been explaining his transgressions to his 22-year-old daughter. "Having her see me as flawed and having made bad mistakes, it's life changing."