The strange saga of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) may be over, but it is only a matter of time before the next scandal breaks. Why? Because the nation’s capital has historically been full of Weiners.
Congress has become a hotbed for scandals, especially sexually charged ones. The end result for the politician involved is always unpredictable. Some are forced to resign like Weiner, while others weather the storm and are reelected repeatedly. What follows can be considered a random sampling.
Rep. Allan Howe (D-UT), for instance, was elected to the House in 1974 but lost his reelection bid in 1976 after being arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. But Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has been in office for thirty years despite the fact that he fixed parking tickets for a male prostitute he hired in 1989. The prostitute also ran an escort service from Frank’s apartment, though the congressman claimed to be unaware.
Reps. Dan Crane (R-IL) and Gerry Studds (D-MA) were both reprimanded and censured by the House for engaging in sexual relations with their own personal underage pages. Crane’s was a female and Studds’ was a male; however, while Crane lost reelection in 1984, Studds was reelected to the House six more times.
In recent years, a number of Republicans have been pushed out of office under the cloud of scandal. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) was accused of physically abusing a woman with whom he had a five-year long extramarital affair during the 2006 campaign. Although he won the Republican primary, he eventually lost the general election in large part because of the scandal.
Rep. Ed Schrock (R-VA) was forced to abandon his bid for a third term in 2004 after a tape surfaced of him soliciting sex from a male prostitute. Ironically, he had been an outspoken foe of gay rights groups.
Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) was forced to resign in 2006 due to allegations he was sending sexually explicit messages and e-mails to his male pages. While he was chairman of the House Caucus of Missing and Exploited Children, he introduced legislation aimed at sexual predators.
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) had one of the most bizarre stories, when in 2007 he was arrested for lewd conduct in the men’s restroom of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. His foot placement in the bathroom stall suggested he was soliciting sex from a male prostitute who was actually an undercover police officer. Despite calls to resign, he finished out his term and left office in early 2009.
Sex scandals don’t have to hurt your career, however. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) emerged none the worse for wear after his name was tied to a prostitution ring in 2007. He easily won re-election last year. In a much higher-profile case, Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign after being under investigation for his involvement in a swank prostitute ring. Nonetheless, his career has rebounded thanks to his CNN talk show, and now there’s even talk he might run again for high office. Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) hasn’t been so fortunate. Earlier this year he was caught sending a shirtless picture to a transvestite on Craigslist, resigned the day it was published, and if not for the Weiner scandal would have probably never been talked about again.
Yet most Americans don’t seem to think the problem is with politicians in general. According to a poll recently conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of men and 59% of women believe elected officials involved in sex scandals get caught more often because they are under more scrutiny. Only 19% of those polled believe it is because the officials have lower moral standards than the average Americans.
Either way, it’s only a matter of time before the next scandal breaks.