Reports of lawmakers drinking heavily and swimming in the Sea of Galilee and using the phrase “legitimate rape” in talking about abortion and pregnancy are just the latest in a series of missteps and misstatements by members of Congress in the past two years.
Several members, Democrats and Republicans, have enraged party leaders and constituents, turned heads or caused reporters and staffers to scratch their heads, for a variety of odd reasons. (And they wonder why congressional approval hovers at roughly one in ten?)
Let’s take a look back.
1.) Rep. Christopher Lee (R-N.Y.): In one of the swiftest falls from political grace, he resigned in February 2011 just hours after Gawker posted an alleged e-mail exchange between a man who used Lee’s name — but identified himself as a divorced lobbyist — and a woman from Maryland. In follow-up e-mails, the man allegedly attached photos — one of himself in a blue polo, the other shirtless. Both of the images bear a significant resemblance to Lee. In its posting, Gawker said the woman cut off the electronic conversation and contacted Gawker after she did an online search for Lee and “concluded that he’d lied about his age and occupation.”
2.) Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.): Resigned in April 2011 amid an ongoing Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his handling of an affair with a former aide — whose husband was also his top legislative aide. His decision came after he had already announced plans to retire at the end of his current term, which would have ended later this year.
In June 2009, Ensign publicly admitted that he had had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, who was his political treasurer and was married to Doug Hampton, Ensign’s administrative assistant. The Ensign and Hampton families lived in the same neighborhood outside Las Vegas and were considered the best of friends. In 2008, when the affair became known to the other spouses, Ensign dismissed both Hamptons, and his parents, wealthy casino magnates, paid them $96,000 in what was labeled gift income for tax purposes, the precise amount legally permissible without triggering taxes.
3.) Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.): Resigned in June 2011 after he posted a photo of his underwear-clad groin on his public Twitter feed. At first, he blamed the photo on a “hacker” during a series of combative TV interviews, but then confessed after more photos appeared, all showing Weiner posing suggestively for women he had met online. The resignation came just weeks after Weiner earned plaudits for a hysterical stemwinder at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner, during which he joked about his last name. It also robbed him of short-term plans to run for New York City mayor. He’s enjoyed a mild political resurgence in recent weeks, partly due to attacks on his wife, Huma Abedin.
4.) Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.): He stepped down last August after reports detailed a young woman’s complaints of an “unwanted sexual encounter.” The congressman previously had planned not to seek reelection, but decided to leave early after congressional leaders called for an ethics investigation. Reports by the Oregonian newspaper said the incident involved a recent high school graduate who is the daughter of one of Wu’s friends. It occurred three weeks after Election Day. That incident followed another 2010 confrontation by his campaign staff about his increasingly erratic behavior. Wu’s departure sparked the end of “The Wu Crew,” a devoted band of staffers and supporters who enjoyed wearing T-shirts with the phrase.
5.) Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.): Colleague Aaron Blake said it best when he said that the Michigan lawmaker’s resignation “caps among the most madcap two-month periods in modern politics.”
In a lengthy statement that quoted from Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” McCotter cited a desire to shift his focus to his family: “The recent event’s totality of calumnies, indignities and deceits have weighed most heavily upon my family. Thus, acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must ‘strike another match, go start anew’ by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen.”
McCotter failed to qualify for the primary ballot after most of his petition signatures were found to be fraudulent. He initially opted to run a write-in campaign, but then announced he would not seek reelection. Various jurisdictions continue to investigate allegations of impropriety by McCotter and his staffers.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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