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. coyoteliberty

    Let's see...had a son out of wedlock and saw to it that didn't become a public charge. In fact, took care of it financially after the mom, true to her moral principles, chose not to abort her "mistake", who has grown up to be a productive member of society. Not necessarily a great moral example, but certainly a fine example of taking personal responsibility and thus a fine example of ethical behavior.
    Still better than a certaion Democratic Senator, also long serving and still serving, who violated US law to fly to a foreign country to have s e x with underage p r o s t i t u t e s.

    February 21, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  2. cedar rapids

    'Gabbo -Barely a mention of the Jesse Jackson corruption charges on this site, but they sure trumpet this Republican's love child'

    you mean apart from it being the main story on the site for most of the day you mean?

    February 21, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  3. JD

    Who cares? That should remain between those involved. It's nobody else's business! Let those without sin cast the first stone! I'm democrat, I still believe in everyone should have the right to have their personal life as long as it doesn't interfere with their job for the public!

    February 21, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    UDidntBuildThat wrote:

    John-Just one more "conservative" that couldn't keep it in his pants.

    so typical. When Dems do it, it is their personal life who cares right (Clinton). But when a Repub does it is treated as do it is b/c they are republicans that this happens.
    Rep. Weiner was chased out of office by both sides of the aisle. Gov. Sanford had an affair, went AWOL in South America at taxpayer expense, but Republicans defended his right to stay in office....and he did.
    Some Republican, from Minnesota or some other cold place, was caught in the airport restroom doing unmentionables, and yet somehow he statyed in office because his colleagues defended him. Heck, he even got re-elected, I think.

    February 21, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  5. tarura

    Well, having a child is not a crime, having an affair is not a crime,
    stealing campaign money is not a crime, is that right, senator John Edwards (D) ?

    February 21, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  6. Odo

    More from the so-called party of family values.....the same ones who think they have the right to tell ME how to live....

    February 21, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  7. Linda Luttrell

    Good to know "Do as I say,not as I do" is still alive and kicking...

    February 21, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. Siestasis

    You gotta love the party of "family values".

    February 21, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Some Republican, from Minnesota or some other cold place, was caught in the airport restroom doing unmentionables, and yet somehow he statyed in office because his colleagues defended him. Heck, he even got re-elected, I think."

    Are you thinking of Larry Craig, Rudy? While Craig WAS in a Minnesota airport restroom doing his "toe-tapping the police officer in the next stall" routine, Craig isn't from Minnesota ... he's from Idaho. I don't recall whether or not he was re-elected.

    And, yes. It has been cold up here lately. I'm looking forward to green leaves; green grass; open lakes; fishing off the dock; a touch of sun on my face; my boat ... and a good book. Not necessarily in that order ... but, you get the picture.

    February 21, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. BG Cole

    If this is news, then fine, report it, but CNN's pathological suppression of fair and balanced reporting is still on full display, so to speak.

    February 21, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. Culpepper

    Wow, a Senator who diddled around and got someone pregnant. Like we never heard that one before. Who cares ?????? I don't care if my elected leader is a man-whore, an atheist or likes to where women's clothing in their free time. As long as they are doing the job they were elected to do and working to improve the lives of their constituents, then their private life is all their own.

    February 21, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  12. Larry L


    Barely a mention of the Jesse Jackson corruption charges on this site, but they sure trumpet this Republican's love child !
    Jackson's crime has been the lead article several times. Does being a neo-con require you to become delusional? "Trickle-down economics works.. Sarah Palin isn't stupid... Cheney isn't a criminal... Global climate change is a liberal plot... The Tea Party isn't a racist organization... Contraception is evil... Republicans aren't obstructing progress... We need 30 round magazines... more...." You create your own reality.

    February 21, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  13. Jean

    Gotta love the way CNN leaves this as the lead ticker story when its a repub being made to look bad but there are more recent stories from TODAY aded to the ticker BELOW this one from yesterday – scandal sells I guess, CNN how low can you go? Why isn't Jackson's guilty plea, also from yesterday, the lead ticker story? That's actually news rather than this tabloid nonsense, which by the way, is nothing new to republican or democratic politicians of every stripe.

    February 21, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  14. Jean

    Hmm, can anyone here say "John Edwards"??????

    February 21, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. Billybear3

    Another dishonorable politician being protected for decades. Their is nothing honorable about a man that cheats on his wife, imagine the money he cheated this country out of.

    February 21, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  16. PD

    Had a child w/ a friend's daughter who was half his age and kept it secret for 30 years, while being married to someone else, yet was a big supporter of the moral majority? Really? He's just another perv w/ power. Do as I say not as I do.

    February 21, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. S Hills

    Moral breakdowns like these do lead to leadership decisions that effect all of us!

    February 21, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. PD

    Oh, and he would have taken it to his grave if someone wasn't going to out him as the paper reported!

    February 21, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Sen. Domenici led the revolt to impeach Pres. Clinton for his apparent infidelity.

    February 21, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. Elliot J. Stamler

    He is not the first-remember Strom Thurmond. Some of the differences however were that Thurmond commtted statutory rape way back around 1920 or so with his daughter's mother who was an underage black maid working in the Thurmond mansion (at a time when blacks in SC were treated like dirt), that he spent an entire lifetime promoting de facto hatred against the race of the mother and his daughter, and of course never came clean. Sen. Domenici in contrast seems to have acted honorably and I am not going to dump on an 80-yr old man with brain cancer who I think was a pretty decent Republican senator – and I say that as a Democrat who often disagreed with Mr. Domenici. The quality of mercy is not strained,,,Shakespeare.

    February 21, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. cindy

    To all you hatefuk people, are you perfect? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    February 21, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. Joanne

    Republican or Democrat, who cares. All of us are human and make mistakes. I guess the reason it's worse when the guy is a Republican is because of the shrill self-righteous "God fearing" rhetoric of the typical Republican politician. They remind me of those Jim Baker/Jimmy Swaggart type of scumbag preachers that fooled so many willing dupes into sending money. Redstates are full of uneducated dupes waiting to be fleeced in the name of God.

    February 21, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    Frankly, I really don't care if he fathered a child with a horse, much less the daughter of his friend. The outrage comes from the fact that he took money from Right wing social causes, led the charge to impeach President Clinton, voted for DOMA.....the list goes on. I don't condone infidelity from anyone, but when you use a bullhorn to scream about a lack of morals when in private you are just as guilty as the ones you criticize, it makes you look worse than a cheater. Hypocrisy is not a GOP trait, its not a Democratic trait, its a human trait. All this proves is that, once again, our elected officials are prone to same weaknesses as the rest of us. Don't expect them to be perfect, people. I find it sad that someone felt compelled to use this knowledge to hurt a man who served his state and country the best way he could for decades, as well as the mother and his now-adult son. This was completely unnecesary.

    February 21, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  24. TheTeacherThePreacher

    Good ole GOP family values rear their head once again. Hypocracy in action.

    February 21, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. Kweso

    Only God knows how to do this best. "And the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she conceived." And Joseph says: "What happened to my virgin?"

    February 21, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
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