The troubling episode in which U.S. Rep. David Wu accepted painkillers from a campaign donor just before the November 2010 election grew more problematic Saturday, when The Oregonian published emails from Wu and staffers that suggest Wu knew the medication he took from the contributor was not over-the-counter despite his recent denials to the contrary.
The emails published in this new report also show staffers for Wu (D-Ore.) were concerned about their boss taking the pills.
In written statements last month to WW and then The Oregonian in response to direct questions about that episode last year, Wu maintained he did not know what "alternative" painkiller he took when, over dinner in Southwest Portland with a donor on Oct. 26, 2010, he suffered what he called a severe neck spasm.
"Last fall, I had occasional spasms of severe neck pain for which I took medication that was prescribed by my doctor," the congressman said in that written statement. "At a meeting last October with a campaign contributor, I experienced a severe episode, but my prescription was in Washington, D.C., at the time. The donor offered me an alternative painkiller, and I took two tablets. This was the only time that this has ever happened. I recognize that my action showed poor judgment at the time, and I sincerely regret having put my staff in a difficult position."
Today, The Oregonian published an email from Oct. 27, 2010, that cast doubt on Wu's claim he did not know what he had been given because the email shows Wu would have had trouble getting the pills over the counter. The donor told WW in February the pills in question were ibuprofen. Citing an unnamed source, The Oregonian said they were oxycodone. An aide took the pills from Wu after he took at least one.
"Pain ramping up," read the Oct. 27 email from Wu published today in The Oregonian. "Need the two pills in your other purse or sleep tonight and KPOJ tomorrow will not go well. Meet you downtown or anywhere you are."
A subsequent email from Kris Pratt, now Wu's chief of staff following the departure of Julie Tippens, directed the aide to disregard Wu's email. "[D]o not respond to him," The Oregonian reports Pratt wrote.
A spokesman for Wu did not respond to a request for comment from WW today. The congressman, who has lost nine staffers and several more consultants since November, has declined repeated requests for a face-to-face interview with WW since early February, before the newspaper published a photograph of Wu in a tiger costume that the Democratic congressman sent a staffer.