The line is almost blurred between scandals and politics. In fact, scandals may be part and parcel of politics. Greed, corruption, sex, and self-importance seem to be indispensable in this field. When the dirty details finally emerge, they usually become the fodder of the voters’ rage, as well as the butt of jokes among comedians.
Nixon’s Watergate may be the poster boy of political scandals. But let’s find out some of the other sensational scandals that put other US and foreign politicians in complete disgrace and utter dishonor.
Prior to the Watergate, the Teapot Scandal was once considered as the “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics.”
During the time of President Warren G. Harding’s administration in 1922, he transferred control of the naval petroleum reserves to the Department of the Interior. The Interior secretary of that time, Albert B. Fall, used his position for personal gain by accepting a $404,000 bribe from the Mammoth Oil Company and Pan America Petroleum to acquire the leasing rights of the oil reserves at the Teapot Dome in Wyoming. Unfortunately for the secretary, the press discovered the bribery incident. Inevitably, the scandal broke and ultimately became the fall, for well… Mr. Fall, who was later imprisoned for corruption.
Sex is one of the usual things to provoke a big political scandal. The late former US President Woodrow Wilson was not without scandal. The root for this particular scandal was not about sex per se, but simply an engagement.
President Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Louise Axson, died in August 1914. In March 1915, he met Edith Galt, a widowed jeweler from the south. Upon their first meeting Wilson instantly took a liking to her. Not long after, he eventually fell for her, and the two became secretly engaged the next fall. It was seen as scandalous during that time. At the time of their engagement, there were rumors that President Wilson had been cheating on his first wife, or that he and Galt even murdered his first wife in order to marry one another. But it was clear that President Wilson and Ms. Galt had not met yet until after his first wife’s death.
The Profumo Affair remains one of the most sensational scandals in British politics. It was in 1963 when John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War during Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s government, had an affair with 19-year-old Christine Keeler. Keeler was also believed to be the mistress of an alleged Russian spy. Those factors, as well as Profumo’s denial about the affair in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, forced him to resign. The scandal also damaged the reputation of Prime Minister MacMillan’s administration; he himself resigned a few months later due to health reasons.
The scandal involved the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in a tidal channel on July 18, 1969. Kopechne, a young colleague and passenger of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, was killed when he accidentally drove his car off a bridge and into the tidal channel. He swam free and left the scene, and did not report of the incident until after nine hours; Kopechne was trapped inside the car and died due to drowning or suffocation.
The next day, the car and Kopechne’s body were recovered. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of “leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury.” He was later meted with a two-month suspended jail sentence. The incident became a national scandal. Kennedy’s decision not to run for President in 1972 and 1976 may have been influenced by the scandal.
Oregon politician, and member of the Republican Party, Robert Packwood’s political career met its end when a story by the Washington Post exposed the details of sexual abuse and assault by ten women, mostly former staffers and lobbyists. The story was not published until after the 1992 election, as Packwood initially denied the allegations. However, after portions of his diary were subpoenaed and the following pressure mounting against him, Packwood ended up resigning in 1995.
Chen Shui-bian was a Taiwanese politician who rose from poverty to political power. He won re-election in 2004, but the scandals began to be exposed two years later. First, his son-in-law was accused of money laundering and insider trading. At the same time, his own wife was charged with corruption and forgery, after it was proven that she wired over $21 million to banks in different countries around the world. Chen himself was charged with abusing his own position. The scandals continued to mount pressure on his family and himself, and Chen eventually resigned in August 2008. Six months later he was arrested for embezzlement and receiving bribes. Needless to say, his political career was finished.
In his 17 years in power, former Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi was involved in a lot of a mess — including tax fraud, swindling, and several sexual dalliances. He was also known as a playboy and a pedophile. However, the most famous of his escapades was the “bunga bunga” — huge promiscuous parties that took place in his mansion in Milan.
His most spectacular scandal occurred in 2011 when he was accused of paying for sex with a Moroccan prostitute known as Ruby Rubacuori, who was underage at that time. She was one of the girls who attended Berlusconi’s wild “bunga bunga” parties. Although both Berlusconi and Rubcuori denied a sexual relationship between them, the prime minister used his influence to bail her out of prison for theft in 2010. Many Italians saw this as an abuse of power. He was convicted and was found guilty, but in 2014 he appealed against the verdict, and in March 2015 he was acquitted.
Former Israeli president Moshe Kastav marked the end of his presidency with a big scandal. It began from allegations of rape and sexual harassment from up to ten women, including one of his subordinates. In 2006, he was charged with two counts of rape stemming from the accusations by his former female employee. She said she was forced to have an intercourse with him when he was then-minister of tourism in the 1990s.
Other women came forward to accuse Kastav of sexual harassment while he was president. There were calls for him to step down or be suspended from his presidency which he refused to do. Kastav, who is an observant Jew, resigned from in 2007; he lost presidential immunity and was thus immediately convicted of his crime.
Congressman Gary Condit was rumored to have had an affair with a young intern in Washington, D.C. named Chandra Levy. Upon her disappearance in May 2001, Condit, who was married, admitted to the affair but denied having anything to do with her disappearance. He was held as a suspect but was later cleared when Levy’s skeletal remains were found and an illegal immigrant named Ingmar Guandique was identified as a suspect and eventually convicted of murdering her.
Former congressman Mark Foley was embroiled in a scandal in September 2006 when he was reported to have solicited e-mails and sexually suggestive instant messages to a teenaged boy who was a former Congressional page. Using his personal AOL account, Foley asked the page to send a picture of himself to Foley, among other things.
While Foley’s office confirmed regarding the messages, they otherwise said that Foley had the habit of asking for photos from individuals who may request recommendations, and the page himself had asked for such a recommendation. However, other pages came forward and the scandal put Foley into public shame.
On August 27, 2007, a Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that Idaho politician Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct inside an airport restroom in Minneapolis-St. Paul on June 11, 2007. He was accused of soliciting an undercover police to have sex with him. Despite Craig’s insistent claims of innocence, he nevertheless pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. He announced his intention to resign from the Senate, but later decided to finish the remainder of his term. Perhaps the scandal might have influenced him in not seeking re-election in 2008. Craig left office in January 2009.
We know that the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer is not exactly the most legitimate and reliable news source. However, it managed to expose Senator John Edwards’ extramarital affair with videographer Rielle Hunter. The affair eventually produced a child, but that’s not the worst part of the scandal. At the time of his public admission about the affair, his wife Elizabeth had been battling breast cancer.
According to reports, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over a period of several years as an attorney-general and then later as governor. He had also been a client of a premium prostitution club. Spitzer attracted the attention of federal authorities when his bank reported suspicious transactions, which initially led investigators to assume bribery on his Spitzer’s part. However, further investigations into Spitzer eventually led to the discovery of the prostitution ring. The scandal, obviously, forced him to resign from his position in March 2008.
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempted to sell the then-President-Elect Barack Obama’s congressional seat to the highest bidder. His plan didn’t go well with other officials and authorities. Blagojevich was eventually arrested and convicted for corruption, and began serving a 14-year prison sentence in March 2012.
Former President Bill Clinton was in the hot seat in 1998 when reports swirled that he had a sexual relationship with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. The affair was reported as having happened in 1995 and 1996. At first, Clinton firmly denied the extra-marital affair, but subsequently admitted of his “inappropriate relationship” with Lewinsky. Because of the scandal, Clinton was impeached but was later acquitted. As for Lewinsky, well, she became somewhat of a celebrity because of the scandal.