Are Virginia legislators secretly making a reality TV show?


Del. Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico) is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law office. (Steve Helber/AP)
Petula Dvorak
Columnist July 7, 2014

Don’t you see what they’re doing?

The shopping binges, the bizarro legislation and now the alleged sex and sexting with a teen? It makes perfect sense when you contemplate what must be the real reason Virginia legislators are acting like wackos. They’re trying to help the commonwealth by making it home to a top-rated reality show.

Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post's local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive

Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, the latest Old Dominion politician to stand before microphones as he offered a less-than-plausible explanation for the nudie pics on his phone, must want to be its star.

I was so sure this was happening, I checked some listings for reality shows to find the casting call. Producers want veterinarians to star in “My Dog Needs Beer,” contestants for “Lingerie Fighting Championships” or homeowners in Oklahoma who want a “Fantasy Pool.” Hmmm. Guess the casting call for scandal-plagued politicians is flying below the radar.

The rumor was that the District had it nailed. I mean, Marion Barry has always been a great character in search of his own sitcom. And the latest batch of indictments, scams, shadow campaigns and fraud has helped. But my guess is Hollywood put the D.C. project on the back burner. People there were looking for something juicier. Some sex. Some sizzle. Something fresher. Shadow campaigns? Boring.

But Virginia’s suits are on a roll, vying for the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” crowd in a big way. And it could pay serious dividends for Richmond. Look what “Jersey Shore” did for the local economy and a bunch of unknowns. The summer after that circus act aired on MTV, Seaside Heights, N.J., reported a $3 million bump in tourist spending, as America embraced Snooki’s cookie diet.

So maybe Morrissey, the Democrat who is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old receptionist at his law office, allegedly did it for the buzz it would create for Virginia.

Did you catch the ridiculous news conference he held, where he insisted his phone was hacked and he read aloud the girl’s text, complete with “OMG” and a word TV stations later apologized for? The guy’s a natural for the reality shows. And that presser was his audition tape.

Plus, he’s known for punching a fellow lawyer outside court (remember the ratings when Snooki was decked?), and he is the baby daddy to three children with three women. Imagine the hilarity that ensues when he takes official family portraits! Producers can create scenarios in which the women “accidentally” bump into each other. It’s reality-show gold.

You can see how his shenanigans would help goose the whole plan, something Virginia politicians must’ve been plotting for years. Maybe it’s all part of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism campaign?

Sure, lawmakers tried other things to get Hollywood’s attention. Remember when Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) tried to audition for a show?

Two years ago, Albo was working to pass legislation that would require any woman in Virginia seeking an abortion to be probed by a transvaginal wand 24 hours before the scheduled procedure.

“Hmmm,” Albo must have wondered. “How can I make all this boring testimony a little sexier?”

So when he was scheduled to talk about the probes on the House floor — a place allegedly reserved for serious debate about meaningful issues — he brought a boom box and started blasting porny, wha-wha music as background for his testimony. Turns out, he explained, the whole issue was a turnoff for his wife.

His fellow House members laughed. Sadly, his performance generated not one bite from reality-show producers, who were finding juicier material with housewives in Atlanta and in hoarders’ closets. Maybe Albo was too “Neighbors” and not enough “Wolf of Wall Street.”

Then Virginia’s big guy, square-jawed former governor Bob McDonnell (R), weighed in with a scandal dripping with private jets, a lavish wedding, golf trips, jewelry, New York shopping sprees and that Rolex.

Better. Now we’re talking. His wife was a cheerleader! Their trial begins in July!

“Good, but gimme something more,” the producers must’ve said.

The Virginia boys weren’t as bombastic as those guys in Chicago. Or as cutthroat as the fellas in Jersey.

How about some local color, something folksy, like the guys mucking around in the swamps of Louisiana? (With “Treme,” “True Blood” and “True Detective,” we’re close to Louisiana super-saturation, the producers are thinking).

Enter former Virginia senator Phillip P. Puckett, who comes from coal country. The Democrat resigned during a battle over the expansion of Medicaid last month, giving Republicans the upper hand in their efforts to block health-care coverage for 400,000 desperate people. Puckett was on the verge of scoring a cushy job on a tobacco commission.

We’ve got tobacco, Hollywood! Can’t you work with that?

“Pretty good,” the producers finally conceded.

“House Members of Richmond” must be on its way.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.

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