News & Politics

That Time Washingtonian Went on a Date With Lindsey Graham

“I’d take you upstairs,” he told our reporter, ”but there’s a whole lot of underwear on the floor.”

Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

Maybe it was during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Perhaps it was in the midst of the Michael Cohen hearings. It could have even been in the past few weeks, watching him defend Donald Trump with abandon and decrying the House’s impeachment inquiry. Be honest: At some point or another you’ve wondered what it would it be like to date Lindsey Graham.

No? Well, anyway, the answer, it turns out, could be found in the archives of this magazine. In June of 1995, Washingtonian ran a first-person feature about a writer, Sallie Motsch, who went out with some members of the House of Representatives’ 1994 freshman class. Though the piece included other beaus like George Radanovich, Van Hilleary, and, um, Mark Foley, none of the outings have aged quite as beautifully as the one with the South Carolina rep.

Washingtonian‘s date with Graham opens with Motsch remarking he “doesn’t look like a congressman.” Noting his short stature, his graying hair and “plain face,” Motsch states “you might not notice this man in a crowd until he opens his mouth.”

The Southern Baptist has set up a dry lunch at Head’s, a now defunct barbecue restaurant. As Graham and Motsch prepare to head to the restaurant, Motsch writes “Graham touches the small of my back, and I arch slightly. I’m not used to Southern gentility.” On the way to the restaurant, Graham chats about his time in the Air Force as a chief prosecutor in Europe, saying “it was the perfect life for a bachelor,” and mentions a Lufthansa flight attendant that Motsch assumes to be a former sweetheart.

Lunch is briefly interrupted when Graham (who says he has gained 15 pounds since the start of his campaign) has to get some cardio in and dash to the House floor to record his vote on an unidentified piece of legislation. When he returns, the two talk books (Graham was then working on a Martin Luther King biography and a George Wallace autobiography) and Newt Gingrich, with Graham criticizing Gingrich for reading too much and not spending enough time with the people.

With crumbs on his face, Graham asks Motsch, “Wanna see my apartment?” Motsch balks slightly at the speed with which the date is progressing, but agrees to check out his digs. On the walk over, Graham asks Motsch where she lives. When she tells him “Greenwich Village,” he responds with, “aren’t there a lot of communists there?” Motsch isn’t sure if he’s joking.

At the townhouse he shares with fellow Republican Hilleary, Graham shows Motsch his “garden” (a patch of dead weeds) then leads her into the living room ornamented by “eclectic antiques and full bookshelves” that came with the house. There are shrink-wrapped telephone books on the floor and a box of Cheerios and a half-eaten loaf of Pepperridge Farm whole wheat bread on the counter. “I’d take you upstairs,” Graham says, “but there’s a whole lot of underwear on the floor.”

Motsch notes, “Despite his apparent contentment with bachelorhood, I sense a yearning for marriage and a family.” A viewpoint likely reinforced when Graham asks her how many children she wants to have. As she shakes his hand and bids goodbye, Graham says, “Call me Lindsey. Stop in next time you’re in town.”

While it doesn’t seem Graham ever got a date two, Motsch got a pretty sweet deal out of her work on the Hill. 20th Century Fox optioned the story for a movie deal, and Jennifer Aniston was slated to play Motsch. Sadly, Bill Clinton’s sex scandal made executives reconsider the film, according to a Washington Post obituary for Motsch, by then named Sallie Brady, who passed away in a house fire in 2013 at the age of 47.

Graham’s commitment to bachelorhood has been a longtime point of scrutiny. Graham told Politico in 2015 that he came close to marrying a woman once and that he doesn’t think he’s “defective” just because he’s single.

Motsch’s encounter just raises more questions. Who was the mysterious Lufthansa stewardess? Did Motsch ever have a chance at becoming Mrs. Lindsey Graham? Did the Senator realize after the date it might be shrewd to invest in a hamper?

Graham could not be reached for comment.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.