February 20th, 2013
01:21 PM ET
5 years ago

Ex-Sen. Domenici admits to fathering son outside of marriage 30 years ago

(CNN) – Pete Domenici, the longtime GOP senator who represented New Mexico for more than thirty years, admitted Wednesday that an extramarital affair three decades ago produced a son, who was kept secret from the public since then.

In statements, the former senator and his son's mother explained the circumstances surrounding the affair and why they were going public with the information on Wednesday.

"More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside my marriage," Domenici wrote. "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 son was identified by Domenici as Adam Laxalt, who is a lawyer in Nevada. His mother, Michelle Laxalt, is the daughter of Paul Laxalt, the former U.S. senator and governor of Nevada. She wrote her pregnancy was the result of "one night's mistake...more than 30 years ago."

She said in her statement that the decision to remain quiet about her son with Domenici stemmed from a desire for privacy.

"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 wrote.

She said the decision to come forward Wednesday was made after it became clear the "sacred situation might be twisted, re-written out of whole cloth, and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents."

Domenici and Laxalt's statements were first reported by the Albuquerque Journal.

Domenici, aged 80, worked in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009, and was the longest serving U.S. senator in New Mexico's history. He decided not to seek re-election in 2009 after being diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration, a type of dementia. The disease attacks the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which control judgment, complex decision-making, communication, mood and behavior.

During his time in the Senate, Domenici never faced a competitive challenge to his seat, though in the final months of his tenure he came under scrutiny for his role in a controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

In his years in the Senate, Domenici served as the chairman of Budget Committee, as well as the Energy Committee, where he was the panel's ranking Republican.

According to an online biography, Adam Laxalt served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a lawyer in Las Vegas. He was also deployed in Iraq to provide legal advice on detainee detention operations.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: New Mexico • Pete Domenici
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. michael

    This guy voted against every gay rights legislation and if you believe she was the one who insisted to keep it quiet, and that it was just a one night stand, keep fooling only yourself.

    February 20, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Mich Dem

    Having a child this way shows a woman doesn't respect themselves. If the Father isn't a man he's gone. Then its just her.

    February 20, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. Woman In California

    Personally, I really don't care if he fathered 100 children out of wedlock. With the DOW taking a huge plunge today and more to follow, do we really have time to worry about this? If the republicans don't get off their high ends and try to meet the president halfway, we won't have time to discuss this kind of juicy gossip. This country needs to rid itself of this Congress once and for all. They have gone too far this time.

    February 20, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. lex

    Who cares? Morals don'tr countd any more. Just keep promising to spend spend spend and tax.

    February 20, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  5. John

    To answer the earlier post, Sen. Domenici voted to remove Bill Clinton from office, voted to convict him of obstruction of justice and perjury. While at the time, he knew that he had a child as a result of an extramarital affair. Shame on him.

    February 20, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  6. p

    I don't think she was saying her son was a mistake. I think she is saying her affair was a mistake.

    February 20, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  7. 703NOVA

    The difference between this story and the Cohen story is the fact that Cohen was unmarried when he fathered his daughter. So was the woman he had the affair with. Domenici was a married man when he fathered his son.

    February 20, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Tea Baggers' Agony

    Apples and oranges in regards to trying to draw comparisons to the democratic Tennessee politician's daughter. The modern GOP figuratively (and in some cases literally) crawled into bed with the sordid, American Talibanish, religious zealots. They wrap themselves into a riteous package of morality and militant patriotism, and then lead lives of draft-dodging cowardice and moral failures. Their hypocrisy needs to be exposed. Their shame needs to be aired out. Exposing their sordidness is a patriotic duty of the press. It's about time they got on the job.

    February 20, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. KD

    Require the politicians to take a polygraph just like those in (or applying for) other government agencies are required to do. Just think how quiet it will be in DC with the Capitol and White House empty.

    February 20, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  10. Logic N LA

    While the liberal in me says those days he could not have said anything and had a career But that same liberal wonders why there are so many bible-thumping, moral wielding conservatives out there that have these things happen to them and yet they cannot be compassionate of others in the same situation? Their same bible mentions a story about throwing the first stone!

    February 20, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  11. bp

    This all worked out great for Domenici – he got to make whoopee with a woman half his age, suffer no damage to his career as a result and still pontificate as a defender of family values. He pulled it off and got away with it until it didn't matter any more.

    "An ounce of hypocrisy is worth a pound of ambition." – Oscar Wilde

    February 20, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  12. Elena Ferrero

    He votted to impeach our wonderful pPesident Clinton like all war mongering Reps. YEPA. those family values only apply with they are after a Dem.

    How convenient all was kept secret no to ruin his career. All these yrs he was preaching his family morals and values to the rest of us.
    "...Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents" Honorable how?

    February 20, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  13. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Gotta love the GOP... Their noses are in everyone's bedrooms, but don't look into theirs!

    February 20, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  14. Boisepoet

    This is the guy that, during the Clinton episode, said the Founding Fathers would have considiered adultery an impeachable offense. Does hypocrisy ever stop with these guys?

    February 20, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  15. BeverlyNC

    And Republicans are the "Christian" Party of being so judgmental of others who are not as moral as they are? I haven't seen a Republican yet who hasn't broken most of the Ten Commandments – adultery, bearing false witness, coveting and cheating- all with such hypocrisy. They are also filled with such hate. No Republican up for re-election in 2014 should be allowed to keep their seat. We need leadership and honest work for the benefit of the People. Republicans are not hurting President Obama. Their hate, lies, and cheating is destroying their own Party from within. No one trusts them anymore. But the people being hurt the most are the majority of Americans who need the jobs, healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, infrastructure, a higher minimum wage, and the best education we have have the ability to give them. Vote out the Republicans so America can finally recover.

    February 20, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  16. jane

    @just sayin: What's amazing about reports like this is the mindbogglingly jaw dropping hypocrisy of these "family values" morons who cry "String Em Up!" when it's a Democrat, and whine and moan about Jesus forgiving them if they're Republicans. Disgusting.

    February 20, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. bruce

    This would be a non-issue if Dominici wasn't a Bible thumping right wing Republican. It seems to me that those folks are the most vocal against this kind of thing. It would appear that there was about a 25 year difference in their ages, and she was the daughter of his friend. Hypocrites of any and all stripes deserve to be condemned.

    February 20, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  18. Larry L

    Sad that we'd be reviewing this situation and even sadder that I feel the need to comment. We've become mean.

    February 20, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  19. Homer10

    Another Republican caught with his pants down. Geez dudes, don't you guys have any self control? Oh that's right 8 Trillion spent in Iraq, and Afghanistan. I guess you guys don't have any self control.

    February 20, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  20. bullet

    Several things comes to bear here, one of which is how many times was he compromised on how he voted in fear of being disclosed when he was in the majority thirty years ago. Another is if he would lie about having a illegitimate son why would he not lie about anything. He was one of the most arrogant members of the radical right and looked down his nose at anyone that was not in his political clique. Adultery with one of his best friend's daughter and who was himself a U.S. Senator is hitting on about one cylinder as far as morals is concerned. How long did his wife cover for him if she knew? Typical Republican hypocrite.

    February 20, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Never trusted the guy , he did more damage to New Mexico then Meth !

    Domenici was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, to Italian-American parents. Alda (née Vichi), an illegal immigrant, and Cherubino Domenici, who were born in Sorbarro, Italy

    February 20, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  22. WeDontMattter

    More of your conservative family values a work, but this hardly keeps up with the standards set by Newt.

    February 20, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  23. Chipster

    With every fiber of my being, I really don't care. This is a personal matter that is no of our business.

    February 20, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  24. Doggypoos

    So what, in this day in time you can be gay and have kids.

    February 20, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  25. Ron Long

    HOLY, where's my condom, Batman? I see congress is finally getting caught up with their background checks. Ain't computers fun? How many does that make, so far, this year? As Groucho said, "I like my cigar, but I take it out, now and then. I say we add video and sound. They're Federal Employees. That even beats the record time it takes for a federal employee to change a lightbulb.

    February 21, 2013 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
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