CHICAGO – Top members of Senate candidate Jack Ryan's (search) own party are questioning his honesty after the unsealing of his embarrassing divorce papers, a controversy that some analysts say could sink his campaign.
Republican National Committee (search) member Mary Jo Arndt said Ryan misled her about the contents of the divorce records, which include allegations that he insisted that his then-wife, actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, go to sex clubs with him. Ryan denied the allegations.
The records were released Monday after a judge ordered the documents unsealed. Ryan and his ex-wife both fought the release, saying it would be harmful to their 9-year-old son.
"I feel he betrayed all of us by implying there was nothing detrimental in the sealed records," Arndt said. "I don't think he was protecting his son; I think he was protecting his political aspirations."
Ryan insisted Tuesday that he is staying in the race and expects to overcome the negative publicity. In the divorce papers, he denied his wife's allegations and said he had been "faithful and loyal" to her.
Ryan told reporters he "tried as hard as I could" to tell party officials what was in the documents. "I told everybody the exact same thing — there was nothing in the file that would prevent me from running for the U.S. Senate."
Other Republicans who once supported Ryan have distanced themselves from him, including former Gov. Jim Edgar, whose aide said Edgar wasn't given a full description of what was in the divorce files before they became public.
Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., called on Ryan to quit the campaign.
Political consultant Fred LeBed noted that polls already showed Ryan's opponent in the general election, Democrat Barack Obama, holding a wide lead over Ryan in a state that has been trending Democratic in recent elections.
"Someone who was bleeding before would now be a political hemophiliac," LeBed said. "I don't know how he can stop the bleeding and salvage this candidacy, particularly when members of his own party are calling for him to get out of the race."
Obama said he isn't interested in the allegations and wants to stick to issues.
The head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, Sen. George Allen of Virginia, said Tuesday that he still supports Ryan.
Ryan "has the ability to forcefully articulate issues and ideas that matter," Allen said. "His ex-wife Jeri has said he's a good man and he's a loving father, and his in-laws have also talked about what an outstanding U.S. Senator he will be. So we are — I am — strongly supporting Jack Ryan."
Ryan said he will overcome the allegations because he didn't break the law, his marriage vows or the Ten Commandments. Other people accused of worse have been elected, he said.
"I think if that's the worst people can say about me in the heat of a difficult dispute, I think it speaks very well about my character," he told WBEZ-FM.
But Mike Lawrence, interim director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said the allegations raise serious questions about the millionaire former investment banker-turned-teacher.
"I think it's going to be very difficult for him to run a credible race," Lawrence said. "This is not about some complex financial deal. ... These are allegations of a kind of behavior that people will react to."
The Chicago Tribune and Chicago TV station WLS sued to have the documents released.