LANSING, Mich., Aug. 7 (UPI) -- A Michigan state lawmaker concocted a false smear campaign against himself in an effort to draw attention away from an extramarital affair he was having with a congresswoman, the Detroit News reported Friday.
The newspaper cited audio recordings taken by an aide, in which Rep. Todd Courser is allegedly heard laying out the plans for the smear campaign -- which accused him of having sexual relations with a male prostitute.
The idea was reportedly to draw attention from an affair Courser was having with Rep. Cindy Gamrat. Both are married.
According to the audio recording, the false rumor was intended to be spread via email and create "a complete smear campaign" of false claims about him and Gamrat so a public revelation about the legislators' relationship would seem "mild by comparison," the Detroit News report said.
The newspaper cited interviews with House employees and audio recordings in reporting that Courser and Gamrat used their taxpayer-funded offices to take steps to conceal their sexual relationship. The pair, ages 43 and 42, are freshman representatives in Michigan's legislature.
"I need a controlled burn," Courser, a father of four, said repeatedly on the tape. "I need it to be over the top."
The story Courser allegedly wanted to put out was that he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub, CBS Detroit reported.
News reports said it appears someone with knowledge of the lawmakers' secret relationship threatened to expose them, and that prompted the planned smear campaign.
"This is the best we came up with. Neither one of us want to be on somebody's leash. Neither one of us really want to be in Lansing if this is how we have to do it," Courser supposedly said on the recording.
"You could just quit, you know," his aide responded -- to which Courser said, "I might have to."
There are now calls for Courser, and possibly Gamrat, to resign from office.
"Todd Courser, a man who never passes on an opportunity to preach about his supposed morals and his close relationship with God, constantly evoking religion in his personal and political stances, has proven to be completely unfit to represent the hardworking residents of Lapeer County, using taxpayer dollars to abide and assist his gross misconduct," U.S. Rep. Candice Miller said in a statement Friday.