Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican representing Iowa, reportedly wrote in divorce court filings that her husband of more than two decades physically attacked her when she confronted him about an alleged affair with their daughter’s babysitter.
According to the Des Moines Cityview, Ernst’s affidavit detailed a strained relationship between Joni and her husband, Gail, who she said had a “special friendship” with the family’s babysitter. In describing a violent episode, Joni wrote that she confronted him about the situation and the argument “became physical,” forcing her to flee the house with her daughter in the middle of the night and stay with her mother.
At the time, Ernst was the auditor of Montgomery County. She said she met with a victim’s advocate at the courthouse the next morning, who urged her to go to the hospital after examining her throat. Ernst wrote that Gail agreed to attend counseling with her if she agreed not to bring up the assault. In addition to the alleged assault, Ernst wrote that Gail was mentally abusive and repeatedly referred to her as his “retirement plan,” per Cityview.
This bled over into Ernst’s professional life again in the summer of 2016, when Ernst was among those interviewed as a potential running mate on Donald Trump’s campaign. In the affidavit, Ernst alleged that she turned Trump and the job down because of the fragile state of her marriage, writing that she, “continued to make sacrifices and not soar higher out of concern for Gail and our family,” per the Des Moines Register.
The paper also reported that Ernst said she found her husband’s emails with another woman, who she called his longtime girlfriend, on their 25th wedding anniversary, days after he had asked her for a divorce. She alleged in the affidavit that she discovered her husband and the woman plotting their respective divorces and planning their future house, prompting her to move forward with the divorce. Ernst wrote that she “rapidly” lost 13 pounds after the discovery and forced her staff to shut down her schedule for two days while she processed the situation. Per the Register, a judge today sealed most of the divorce records at the Ernsts’ request. Divorce records are automatically made public when the divorce is final but the parties can file to keep some records sealed, according to the paper.