The predominance of social media in daily life limits the privacy of high-profile politicians, including their ability to engage in extramarital affairs. U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) is the most recent politician to find himself under fire for an extramarital affair. The Ouachita Citizen, a newspaper in Monroe, La., released a surveillance video featuring McAllister kissing his married former scheduler, Melissa Hixon Peacock. The political fallout for the pronounced conservative McAllister remains to be seen. McAllister may want to examine the political sex scandals featured below if he hopes to save his career. For some politicians redemption is possible. For others the story may end in scandal, but there is certainly notoriety for all.
Anthony Weiner: Battle of the Bulge
In 2011 former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sent explicit messages via his Twitter account to a young female follower. Upon exposure, both online and in public, Weiner denied his actions. Ultimately Weiner admitted his indiscretions and resigned from Congress. Given Weiner's unfortunate surname, his indiscretions became not just the latest congressional scandal but fodder for late-night TV hosts as well. After seeking therapy and restoring his marriage, Weiner ran for Mayor of New York City. Despite claiming to be a changed man, sources revealed that Weiner, under the equally unfortunate alias Carlos Danger, continued to send messages to young women after resigning from Congress. Weiner lost the mayoral election and now reportedly will write a column for Business Insider.
Bill Clinton: Intern in a Blue Dress
As the most powerful man in the free world, former U.S. President Bill Clinton could have had any woman he wanted. Rather than see a supermodel on the side, Bill Clinton chose to have an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. After taped recordings of Lewinsky's phone conversations with a friend were released in 1998, the Clinton-Lewinksy sex scandal became national news. Clinton denied having sexual relations with "that woman," but the evidence, a blue dress with suggestive stains, indicated otherwise. Clinton's affair with Lewinsky led to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate. Clinton completed his presidential term and continues to be an important, active figure in global affairs.
David Petraeus: All In
David Petraeus was a four-star general, a rumored presidential candidate, former Director of the CIA, and an adulterer. During his tenure as Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, David Petraeus met Paula Broadwell, and they became friendly. During that time Broadwell also wrote a biographical book titled All In: The Education of David Petraeus. While the duration of the affair is not known, many speculate that Petraeus did not become all in, literally or figuratively, until completing his military service. The affair came out after the FBI began to investigate threatening emails sent by Broadwell to Petraeus' family friend, Jill Kelley. Broadwell's and Petraeus' messages from phony email accounts were ultimately the smoking gun. Following an FBI investigation, David Petraeus resigned as Director of the CIA in November 2012.
Larry Craig: Footloose
Conservative, homophobic former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) got caught with his foot out. In June 2007 Craig was caught attempting to solicit sex by tapping his foot in a men's restroom in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. After being charged with suspicion of lewd conduct, Craig pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct. Craig vehemently denied allegations that he is gay and claimed that he has a wide stance and was trying to pick up a piece of paper in the bathroom stall. Despite his efforts to prove his heterosexuality, Craig announced his resignation from Congress in September 2007 but ultimately chose to finish his term.
Eliot Spitzer: Call Me
Although former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer promised to bring ethics and integrity to the governor's office, his actions indicated otherwise. Spitzer's dalliances were complicated and expensive. He reportedly spent $80,000 total on prostitutes after he was caught using the services of the Emperors Club VIP. Spitzer resigned in March 2008 amidst an FBI investigation regarding suspicious money transfers. Although The New York Times reported that Spitzer had used campaign funds to pay prostitutes, Spitzer was never prosecuted for involvement in the prostitution ring due to insufficient evidence. In 2013 Spitzer lost the election for New York City Comptroller.
Gary Condit: Disappearing Act
Former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) became embroiled in scandal following the disappearance of Chandra Levy in 2001. Not only did it turn out that Condit was an adulterer, but he was a hypocrite, because he'd called for President Bill Clinton to fully disclose the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky during the president's impeachment. Condit may also be labeled a liar for his initial denial of the affair with Levy, an intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons who was originally from his congressional district. After Levy's disappearance, Condit was subject to a great deal of criticism and suspicion. Although he completed his term, he lost the primary election and has not sought public office since. Ultimately the remains of Chandra Levy were discovered, her killer was prosecuted and found guilty, and Condit was completely exonerated despite never having been an official suspect in the investigation.
Mark Sanford: Trail Blazer
In June 2009 Americans watched their televisions as reports appeared regarding the disappearance of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Sanford ad told his wife that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but neither family nor staff heard from him for many days. Instead of roughing it in the woods, Sanford had been in Argentina visiting his mistress, now his fiancée, Maria Belen Chapur. Although Sanford served the rest of his term, he resigned as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association and was censured by the South Carolina General Assembly for misusing public funds to facilitate his affair. For Sanford, however, redemption exists. In 2013 Sanford won the special election for the first congressional district of South Carolina. Notably, Sanford serves on the House Committees on Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure, not on the House Committee on Ethics.
Jim Mcgreevey: Homeland Security
"Never mix business and pleasure" is a rule that former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey did not follow. McGreevey was criticized for appointing Golan Cipel as his homeland security adviser because of Cipel's lack of credentials, and for his very close relationship with Cipel. Cipel resigned from his position upon McGreevey's request and then threatened to sue McGreevey for sexual harassment. After threats of legal action, McGreevey admitted to the affair with Cipel and announced that he is gay. McGreevey resigned from office in November 2004 and has since pursued a life outside the political arena.
David Vitter: Dear Madam
Conservative Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was not practicing the family values he preached when he became embroiled in the "D.C. Madam" scandal. In July 2007 David Vitter's phone number was discovered in the phone records of the so-called D.C. Madam, Deborah Jean Palfrey, by Hustler Magazine. Upon discovery, Vitter apologized profusely with his wife by his side and asked forgiveness for his indiscretions. The national and state Republican parties stood by their man as well. Vitter remains the junior senator from Louisiana and has announced that he will seek the governorship following Bobby Jindal's term.
John Edwards: Exotic Films
Former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards had a shining political career before him. Edwards' extramarital activities, however, got the best of him. During his 2008 presidential campaign Edwards engaged in an affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter, which resulted in the birth of a child. Edwards denied being the father of Rielle Hunter's child for two years despite his admission in an ABC News interview of having had an affair with Hunter. Following the affair, Edwards' life has been far from grand. Edwards' wife Elizabeth Edwards separated from him but died prior to their divorce, Rielle Hunter wrote a book about their affair (including their sex tape), and he was indicted but not charged with collecting illegal campaign contributions.
All these men got caught with their pants down or, in the case of Vance McAllister, their mouths open. Presumably the Republican and Democratic leadership should hold training sessions on how to avoid sex scandals. Congressman McAllister, please consult the playbook on handling political sex scandals posthaste.
How will Trump’s administration impact you? Learn more