CHICAGO – Republican Jack Ryan (search) vowed to stay in the race for U.S. Senate despite embarrassing allegations that he tried to pressure his former wife to perform sex acts in clubs while others watched.
"My intention is to stay in the race," Ryan said Monday after a California judge unsealed records of his divorce from to Jeri Lynn Ryan (search), the actress best known for roles on TV's "Boston Public" and "Star Trek: Voyager."
To view the divorce documents, click here.
Calls for Ryan to leave the race came almost immediately after the revelations, but Ryan rejected them.
"I think this is a new low for politics," Ryan said Tuesday on Chicago's WLS-AM. "It seems to me it's just a new standard, and I don't think it's healthy for our democracy."
"There's no breaking of any laws," he said in an interview on WBEZ-FM. "There's no breaking of any marriage laws. There's no breaking of the Ten Commandments anywhere."
Jeri Lynn Ryan charged in a custody hearing that during surprise trips to New Orleans, New York and Paris in 1998, the year before they divorced, Ryan insisted she go to sex clubs.
She described a New York club "with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." She said she refused when Ryan asked her to perform a sexual act while others watched.
Ryan denied the accusations and said he felt bad for their son, now 9, that she would falsely accuse him.
"I did arrange romantic getaways for us, but that did not include the type of activity she described," Ryan said in court papers. "We did go to one avant-garde nightclub in Paris which was more than either one of us felt comfortable with. We left and vowed never to return."
Ryan, a millionaire investment banker-turned-teacher, won the GOP Senate primary in March despite having little political experience.
He faces Democrat Barack Obama. Recent polls show Obama holding a wide lead over Ryan in a state that has been trending Democratic in recent elections.
Ryan and his ex-wife vigorously fought the public disclosure of the files after their existence became known during the primary campaign, arguing that making them public would harm their son.
The Chicago Tribune and Chicago TV station WLS sued to have the documents released. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert A. Schnider ruled in their favor last week because of Ryan's high-profile candidacy.
In a news conference Monday, Ryan refused to comment further specifically on the allegations, saying his response in the court papers spoke for itself. "I am sticking by the exact things I said five years ago," he said.
Ryan has tried to shore up support from Republican leaders in recent days. But one GOP member of the Illinois congressional delegation, Rep. Ray LaHood, called Monday for Ryan to withdraw his candidacy.
"There's no way the people of Illinois are going to countenance this behavior from a Senate candidate from the Republican Party," said LaHood, of Peoria.
Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, who is retiring and whom Ryan is hoping to replace, remained supportive of Ryan.
"Divorce cases and child custody cases are by nature acrimonious and allegations on all sides are often unreliable or sensationalized. The Jack Ryan that I know very well is a good and decent man," Fitzgerald said.
Obama did not return calls seeking comment. But he told the Chicago Tribune that it would not be "appropriate" for him to comment on the revelations. "Obviously, Mr. Ryan and his supporters will be discussing this and I don't think that's my role," he said.
Democratic leaders have targeted Illinois as a key battleground in their effort to regain control of the Senate. Thirty-four seats are up for grabs in November.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Jeri Lynn Ryan did not mention the allegations but said she now considers Ryan a good man and loving father.
Divorce papers also dogged another millionaire Senate hopeful in Illinois this year. Blair Hull was an early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but papers were unsealed from his 1998 divorce alleging that he struck his ex-wife and threatened her. Obama won that nomination.