Most of Washington enjoys a good sex scandal as a break from partisan battles and world problems, as this spring’s diversion of the “DC madam” story illustrates. By Washington’s rules, run-of-the-mill infidelities are quickly forgotten. The affair that kept Bob Livingston from becoming Speaker of the House is water long under the bridge. Even in the GOP’s family-values presidential field, three of the top contenders—John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich—have admitted to extramarital affairs. But if the sex is lurid enough, the story goes down in DC history.
Here are ten of the most infamous:
❤ In an interview with Playboy in 1981, Rita Jenrette bragged that she’d had sex with her husband, South Carolina Democrat John Jenrette, on the steps of the Capitol during a late-night House session. The incident became the genesis for the name of the Washington satire group the Capitol Steps.
❤ Democratic presidential hopeful Gary Hart was caught at his townhouse cavorting with Donna Rice in 1987 after he dared reporters to follow him amid rumors of infidelity. He dropped out of the presidential race within days after initially denying the tryst. As he told reporters, “If I had intended a relationship with this woman, believe me . . . I wouldn’t have done it this way.”
❤ House Ways and Means chair Wilbur Mills admitted becoming close to stripper Fanne Foxe, the “Argentine Firecracker,” after Park Police stopped his speeding car on October 9, 1974, and Foxe fled, jumping into the Tidal Basin.
❤ The government shutdown in November 1995 led to the beginning of Monica Lewinsky’s affair with President Clinton, which kept America captivated for more than a year and ended only after Clinton’s impeachment.
❤ The Jefferson Hotel became the center of a scandal in 1996 when photographs surfaced of Clinton’s top political adviser, Dick Morris, cavorting with Sherry Rowlands, a $200-an-hour prostitute, on a hotel balcony. Her diaries of their affair and his boasts about his presidential access, both published in the Star tabloid, kept Washington fixated as the Democratic convention took place in Chicago.
❤ Another set of embarrassing diaries were Bob Packwood’s, which became public after allegations of inappropriate sexual advances. The Senate’s investigation eventually recommended his expulsion from the body. He resigned in 1995 before the Senate could act. He defended himself, saying, “On the women . . . I am accused of kissing women, on occasion perhaps overeagerly kissing women, and that is the charge. Not drugging. Not robbing. Kissing.”
❤ The world would probably never have known about the relationship between Chandra Levy and California congressman Gary Condit if Levy hadn’t disappeared in 2001. Her body was later found in Rock Creek Park, and though no evidence emerged that Condit had anything to do with her death, it didn’t stop an intense media focus on him after her disappearance. He lost his next election.
❤ Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank ended up red-faced in 1989 when he discovered that Stephen Gobie, a male prostitute he had hired and then befriended, had been using Frank’s apartment for business. Frank earned a reprimand from the House for fixing some 33 parking tickets for Gobie.
❤ While there was no alleged inappropriate physical contact, the odd e-mails and instant-message conversations between Republican Mark Foley and teenage House pages forced him from Congress last year.
❤ Married conservative Mississippi Republican congressman Jon C. Hinson was the subject of many lurid stories during his career—not the least of which was surviving a fire at a gay club in DC—but his 1981 arrest by Capitol Police on a morals charge in a men’s room of the Longworth House Office Building along with an employee of the Library of Congress ended up forcing him to resign.