80-year-old former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici (R) admitted Wednesday that he had an affair roughly thirty years ago and kept the resulting child a secret for decades.
He explained in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal: “More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside of my marriage…The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she.”
The former senator, who served for six terms and has eight children with his wife, said he was speaking now out of concern someone else was about to break the story.
Michelle Laxalt, the child’s mother, corroborated the story.
“Given the fact that both my father and the father of my child were United States senators, I felt strongly that I would make this choice according to my values and would not seek advice, input or permission,” she said.
Her son grew up “surrounded by love and joy and opportunity,” she added. “I am proud of him, yet saddened that the circumstances of his birth might be used like a weapon to hurt many we love.”
The Albuquerque Journal has more on the life of Michelle Laxalt and her son:
[Domenici’s son] Adam Paul Laxalt is a former U.S. Navy officer who graduated with honors from Georgetown University in 2001 and from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2005, according to his law firm’s website.
Domenici said his son participated in the drafting of the statement he issued. Laxalt declined by email to comment and asked that his privacy be respected.
Before serving in the Navy, including general counsel duties in Iraq, Laxalt worked as a law clerk for the U.S. Air Force general counsel. He also worked as a special assistant to John Bolton, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, and as a staff member for Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
Michelle Laxalt formed her own consulting firm in Washington, D.C., and once was identified by Washingtonian magazine as one of the district’s top 50 lobbyists. She was active in the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.
The Washington Post notes that Domenici is not the first lawmaker to admit having a child out of wedlock long after the date of birth.
“Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who is unmarried, recently disclosed that he had a 24-year-old daughter whom he learned about three years ago. A 2008 drunken driving incident led former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) to acknowledge his long-running affair and out-of-wedlock daughter. Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the mixed-race daughter Strom Thurmond kept secret for 70 years, died earlier this month,” the Post concludes.