Anthony Weiner and Company: Juicy Books Go Behind Political Sex Scandals
When he resigned from Congress in 2011 after “sexting” several young women--none of whom were his wife--disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner stepped away from the spotlight, plunging late-night comedians and pun-loving tabloid editors into deep depressions. But since the revelation last week that the New York City mayoral candidate continued to blast nude pics over the Web after his resignation, the Weiner barbs are back--and harsher than ever. As his latest gaffe dominates the headlines, we round up must-read books on other shocking political sex scandals.
If rising political star Huma Abedin is worried about her future after the blows to her husband Anthony Weiner's chances at becoming New York's next mayor, there's a slew of wives to philandering politicians whom she can look to as role models--including Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. In 2009, Sanford went missing for six days while conducting an affair in Argentina (not "hiking the Appalachian Trail," as he told his staff). As his ex-wife recounts in her memoir, "Staying True," she refused to play the role of meek spouse; rather, she focused on raising her sons and teaching them about the corrupting influence of power.
As New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer was a dogged enemy of corruption; dubbed "The Sheriff of Wall Street," he reprimanded vacillating politicians, lectured about ethics at Harvard and rode his sterling reputation into office as the 54th governor of New York. But a little more than a year after taking office, it was revealed that Spitzer had been paying thousands of dollars--per hour--for prostitutes. Spitzer's current run for New York City Comptroller hasn't been helped by Weinergate. But his former senior adviser and longtime friend Lloyd Constantine sees the humanity in him. Constantine's book, "Journal of the Plague Year," details Spitzer's "erratic behavior" prior to his downfall and captures his determination to persevere in its aftermath.
With such shenanigans from our politicians, it seems hard to believe that it was only 15 years ago that former president Bill Clinton's illicit affair with then-22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky rocked the nation. The news led to Clinton being impeached (for only the second time in the nation's history, 130 years after the impeachment of Andrew Johnson). Just as sensational as Clinton's conduct was lawyer Ken Starr's four-year, $40 million investigation into it, "The Starr Report." First published in full by the Washington Post and subsequently released as a book, the report was simultaneously hailed as a much-needed reckoning for a president who lied to the people and derided as a lurid, unnecessarily detailed hatchet job.
When he passed away in 2009, veteran Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy--who served in the Senate for 47 years--died an American hero. But in the summer of 1969, when he was still a young politician making his way, Kennedy ignited one of the most shocking political scandals of the century when he drunkenly drove a car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., swam away from the scene and left his 28-year-old campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne to die. The event and attempted cover-up smashed his reputation; rumors swirled that the married politician and Kopechne were romantically involved, which Kennedy denied. The incident left him scarred. “That night on Chappaquiddick Island ended in a horrible tragedy,” he wrote in his 2009 memoir “True Compass,” “that haunts me every day of my life.”
He was the "king of Camelot" and lionized for his political achievements long after his assassination. But, J.F.K. also possessed a darker side, if the memoirs and biographies of his alleged mistresses are true. Judith Exner, who published “My Story,” in 1977, claimed to have had an 18-month affair with the president; he was also rumored to have romanced Washington, D.C. artist Mary Pinchot Meyer, Marilyn Monroe, Swedish socialite Gunilla von Post and, according to journalist Seymour Hersh’s “The Dark Side of Camelot,” at least two of his young aides. Former White House intern Mimi Alford, who claims to have bedded Kennedy when she was just 19, is the most recent mistress to come forward--her explosive memoir, “Once Upon a Secret,” made waves last year.
In 2004, New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey made a stunning announcement: The Catholic, married father of a young daughter admitted at a press conference that the rumors that he'd had a "consensual affair with another man" (his former aide, Golan Cipel) were true--and he was gay. The case made headlines and spawned two books, including his spurned ex-wife Dina Matos’ 2007 memoir, “Silent Partner.” McGreevey, who left politics to become an Episcopal priest, countered with his own memoir two years later, “The Confession.”
Shortly after leaving her internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the spring of 2001, 24-year-old Chandra Levy went missing. As the search for her body spurred round-the-clock media coverage, investigators learned of a past relationship between Levy and California congressman Gary Condit. Condit responded to the revelation—and the cloud of suspicion that soon formed around him—with a slew of lies and demurrals, evading questions about Levy in a much-publicized interview with Connie Chung. While never named an official suspect in her disappearance, Condit remained associated with the controversy and lost his bid for re-election in 2002; the same year, Levy’s body was found. Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz's book "Finding Chandra" describes Levy's life and disappearance.
Just days before vice presidential hopeful John Edwards finally confessed to an affair with former campaign worker Rielle Hunter, Edwards' staffer and right-hand man Andrew Young made a bizarre announcement: He was the father of Hunter's child, not Edwards. It was a strange--and ultimately futile--last-ditch effort by the Edwards team to evade a reputation-ruining scandal. Young's account of what happened, "The Politician," gives an insider's look at the events that led to Edwards' withdrawal from the 2008 race.