Southern Brooklyn

10 Politicians Who Committed Worse Sins Than Anthony Weiner And Still Stayed In Office

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Photo by Erica Sherman

by Willie Simpson

Poor Anthony Weiner. Publicly shamed and denied a dignified departure for a sin most constituents see as inconsequential, it’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for the man. His colleagues turned their backs on him, he was forced to leave Congress, and he suffered some of the worst ridicule of a public figure that we’ve seen in generations. And, in the end, it’s hard to see how the punishment fits the crime.

By comparison, it’s truly remarkable to see how some politicians managed to survive being caught in massive embarrassment, corruption or crime, keeping their seats and, sometimes, moving on to higher positions in government.  Here is a list of 10 notorious politicians – local and national, present and past – who somehow kept their jobs while Weiner is hung out to dry.

Carl Kruger’s Corruption
Political scandals strike at all levels of government.  Sheepshead Bay’s own State Senator Carl Kruger falls on the lower level of the national hierarchy, but his crimes are just as common as those found on Capitol Hill.  Last June, the public learned that Kruger was being investigated by the FBI on charges of bribery, but that was just the tip of the ice berg.  The investigation suggests that Kruger was not only taking bribes and promising favors for the right price, but he may have secretly been in a same-sex relationship with one of his accomplices – a fact made more salacious by his staunch opposition to gay marriage. Despite surrendering to federal authorities last March, Kruger still serves as state senator and most of his colleagues have not called for his resignation.

Dick Cheney’s Hunting Trip
Some scandals aren’t technically crimes, but are accidents so embarrassing that, should they get out, it would spell death for a politician’s career. This was the case in Weiner’s scandal, and it could have been the case with Dick Cheney’s disastrous hunting trip in February of 2006. The one difference is that Cheney somehow managed to stay on as Vice President despite shooting his friend, Harry Whittington, in the face. Aside from shooting somebody with a gun, the most controversial aspect to this incident was how Cheney tried to suppress the release of the incident for a full work week until he could straighten out the facts with the local sheriff’s department. It could have been the scandal that brought Cheney down for good, but luckily for him, it only brought his already low poll numbers down to a record 18 percent.

Charles Rangel’s Getaway
Charles Rangel, the legendary and powerful Harlem congressman, was also rocked by scandal in recent years.  In 2008, a slew of ethical and legal charges were levied against Rangel. A few of the highlights included renting four below-market apartments that he used as campaign quarters, not declaring the income of a free Congressional parking space on his tax returns, and failing to report income on a Dominican beachside villa, essentially using it as a tax shelter. Rangel was defiant in the face of these serious ethical breaches, but lost his powerful seat as the head of the Ways and Means Committee, and gained a damning Congressional Censure as a prize. Despite these humiliating smack downs, Rangel cruised to another easy election and remains in power to this day.

Marion Barry’s Crack Habit
In 1990, longtime Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry had been under federal investigation for six years under the suspicion of illegal drug use.  In January of that year, Barry was finally arrested in a dramatic filmed sting operation in which Barry uttered the immortal line, “Bitch set me up!” Barry was caught red-handed with crack cocaine and was sentenced to six months in federal prison.  None of this stopped Barry’s political career.  Upon being released from prison, Barry ran for mayor again in 1994 under the slogan, “He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for D.C.”  He somehow won and served out his term till 1999. He currently serves as a D.C. councilmember.

Bill Clinton’s Cigars
It’s fascinating to the extent to which Anthony Weiner’s scandal mirrors, and is connected to, that of Bill Clinton’s historic White House episode with Monica Lewinsky. First of all, Weiner has strong ties to the Clintons, being married to one of Hillary’s closest aides, Huma Abedin. Second, like Clinton, Weiner was a charming and charismatic politician, a natural with unlimited potential. Third, they both lied about sex and were quickly caught red handed, forcing awkward retractions and apologetic press conferences. Clinton suffered the indignity of a full blown presidential impeachment, which rallied the country to his side, and allowed him to escape impeachment relatively unscathed. Weiner, who didn’t even have sex with any of the women he was sending lewd photos to, had to resign in disgrace, suffering the fate that many of Clinton’s enemies were certain the president would have to suffer.

Ted Kennedy’s Late Night Swim
In 1969, the world was in Ted Kennedy’s palm. The senator from Massachusetts was the last son of the gifted Kennedy dynasty. It was almost a foregone conclusion that he would challenge Richard Nixon in the 1972 election and probably win. That is, until he violated one of the cardinal rules of politics: “Never get caught with a dead girl or a live boy.” On July 18, 1969, a drunken Kennedy drove his car off a bridge into a lake off Chappaquiddick Island, killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne in the process.  Failing to rescue Mary Jo, Kennedy swam to shore and went home, failing to report the incident to the police. Kennedy was charged with leaving the scene of the crime and given a slap on the wrist.  The scandal that ensued cemented a public image of Kennedy as a drunkard, and a rich playboy who could buy his way out of trouble. While the incident certainly stopped Kennedy from ever sitting in the White House, he did manage to serve in the senate for the rest of his life, garnering a reputation for himself as an elder statesman, with the incident miraculously doing little to derail his congressional career and influence.

Warren G. Harding’s Peccadillos
Warren G. Harding was America’s 29th President.  He came to power at the start of the roaring twenties when gangsters and string pullers were buying elections and corrupting the political process. Considered one of the worst presidents of all time, Harding accomplished little before he suddenly died two years into his first term. One thing Harding was accomplished at was extramarital affairs. The man was an unabashed romantic who couldn’t say no to women. He impregnated his aide Nan Britton, a woman who became delusional, convinced that the president would leave his wife and make her first lady. Her person and her child were carefully kept under wraps. Harding’s sexual exploits were salacious, with claims that he had sex with girlfriends in a White House closet, participated in orgies, and carried on many affairs. While a lot of these rumors were unsubstantiated, Harding’s untimely death stunted any possible repercussions from womanizing should he have lived.

Nixon’s First Scandal
While everyone knows that Nixon went down with the Watergate scandal, it’s sometimes forgotten that his career in politics could have ended much earlier in 1952, when he was trying to hold on as Dwight Eisenhower’s vice presidential candidate. Nixon was accused of receiving money and gifts from political backers in exchange for special favors.  Nixon had made his name fighting government corruption, and these charges seemed fairly damning.  To stem the tide of this growing scandal, Nixon took to the TV waves pleading for mercy and emphasizing that one of the gifts was a black and white dog named Checkers that he simply, in good conscious, couldn’t take away from his daughter. The speech was seen by 60 million Americans, and Nixon received a massive splash of public support which saved his candidacy as vice president, and subsequently altered the future history of the United States by ensuring his political fame, legitimacy, and infamy.

Reagan Didn’t Remember
In November of 1986, it came to light that senior Reagan officials secretly sold arms to Iran, which was under an international arms embargo, in exchange for the release of hostages and cash.  The cash was then allegedly used to fund Nicaraguan Contras to fight a guerrilla war against the leftist Nicaraguan government. Cooked up in large part by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, the scheme directly implicated the President. This massively illegal operation had the potential to bring Reagan and his officials down should proper evidence be found linking Ronnie to the deal, but North destroyed a lot of the evidence, and Reagan was never pinned down. In a remarkable tongue-twisting speech, Reagan took responsibility for the scandal while claiming that he never knew it happened and that he never authorized it. Reagan’s approval rating plummeted from 67 percent to 46 percent, the largest drop ever at the time, but the fickle public soon forgot and forgave Ronald.  He exited office with a robust 64 percent approval rating, the highest ever for a departing president.

Clarence Thomas’s Awkward Entry to the Highest Court
Clarence Thomas’s path to the Supreme Court was not easy. Set to replace Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first black justice, Thomas faced a flurry of opposition from women’s and civil rights groups over his controversial conservative views. When a secret FBI report leaked that Thomas had been accused by law professor Anita Hill of sexual harassment, his confirmation took on an even more scandalous nature. Anita’s accusations were disturbing and detailed as she highlighted Thomas’s long history of uncomfortable sexual harassment. The most infamous story involved a coke can and pubic hair. Other women came forward to back Hill up, but throughout it all, Thomas was indignant and called his confirmation a form of lynching.  Thomas was eventually put on the bench, and has remained there ever since, though no one has gone near his soda since. It should be noted that Weiner was one of Thomas’ most recent and vocal critics, exposing Thomas for voting on healthcare matters that he has a financial stake in. Of course, those allegations will go nowhere now, and Thomas will remain on the bench.

This list of 10 was just the first 10 that came to our minds, but there are a whole lot more out there. What political scandals do you know of that were more serious than Anthony Weiner’s, but whose protagonists continued their public careers?

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Good one! For those wondering what Vitter did:

    In July 2007, Louisiana Senator Vitter was identified as a client of a prostitution service. He won a second term in the November 2 general election. In the Republican primary held on August 28, 2010, Vitter handily defeated a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice.

  2. Um, George W. Bush?  There are mountains of evidence that he and his campaign people stole that first election.  He lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (a congressional investigation eventually found there never were any wmd’s and there was no reason to think there were).  He lied about a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda in order to go after Saddam.  He used the deaths of 3,000 New Yorkers to begin ten years of war in which thousands of American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and civilians, Afghans, etc, died.  He constantly used words that were made up or demonstrated not being able to understand complicated words that he didn’t make up.  He nearly choked and died on a pretzel.  His vice president shot a man in the face.  He declared the war won years ago but we are still fighting it.  The surge solution only resulted in more dead American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.  He colluded with rich Saudis who were backing Al Quaeda and other terrorist groups.  He sold off government war contracts to Dick Cheney’s personal weapons corporation.  He ran a corporation and a sports franchise into the ground.

    Yet he was reelected to a second term as Chief Executive Officer of the United States, and nearly got his own talk show for it.

  3. “nearly got his own talk show for it.”
    God forbid.
    In all seriousness, I agree with you about Bush- he definitely got away with way too much.

  4. Truly a rogue’s gallery.  Throw Vitter in there, too.  And throw in Edwards, Governors Sanford, Spitzer, and Patterson just for funsies. 

    Weiner’s sin was small in comparison to many, but “thou shalt not piss off the 4th Estate!”

  5. file:///Users/clare/Pictures/iPhoto%20Library/Originals/2011/trip%20tp%20work%20force/DSCN0157.JPG

  6. Who is the contributor? Willie Simpson?  Researched information is always a good thing. Well put together. Myself speaking I don’t follow jack with politics/parties. I just like /do not like stuff. 

  7. That Anthony Weiner was calling for an investigation into Clarence Thomas’ refusal to recuse himself from passing judgment on a case his wife has ties to is the supreme irony. 

  8. Let’s not forget Joseph McCarthy, Senator from Wisconsin, responsible for god knows how much despair & destruction.

  9. What did he do to the 4th Estate? He just had a funny name that made for good headlines, given the nature of the scandal. The NY Post’s “which was your favorite headline” feature today proves that the only thing many editors cared about was the punchline that would sell papers, not the tens of thousands of constituents who are now left in a political vacuum at a time when they desperately need it.

  10. What did he do to the 4th Estate? He just had a funny name that made for good headlines, given the nature of the scandal. The NY Post’s “which was your favorite headline” feature today proves that the only thing many editors cared about was the punchline that would sell papers, not the tens of thousands of constituents who are now left in a political vacuum at a time when they desperately need it.

  11. The Wikipedia article about Fernando Wood builds a pretty good case against him. Especially his role in the police riots of 1857.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Wood

    And what of our own John Y. McKane, who fleeced the town of Gravesend for 20 years before justice finally caught up with him? Tweed may have made more money, but McKane did it in a little country town which he put on the map with his wheeling and dealing. He, in essence created the Coney Island that we know today, though his was far unsafer than it was at any time in our memory. Criminals had free reign as long as they stayed away from where McKane’s rich friends vacationed. As for the rest of Coney Island, well in McKane’s own words, “It ain’t no Sunday School”. I wonder if he discouraged the children of the Methodist-Episcopal Church (the one on Voorhies and Ocean, which his firm built) from attending. He was, after all, the Sunday School Superintendent there.

  12. Unfortunately, everyone made more of this story than it should have been worth. And then the politicians of both parties decided it would be good for their public profile to chime in, though members of Weiner’s own party showed more talent in getting prime coverage. When the President of the United States chimed in, that was the icing on the cake for the press.

    To your credit you handled this with dignity and restraint. The rest of the press needs to learn from you.

  13. Because other pols have behaved badly does not Weiner any less stupid. And there’s no other word for it. He could’ve admitted his failings and been a late night punchline for a few weeks. Instead he concocted this “hacking” nonsense while carefully avoiding filing a false police report nor lying to the FBI. He lied to the press, his staff and his allies.

    And his wholer perosna is a passionate defender of liberal causes. That’s much less effective when he lied about soemthing so trivial.He can no longer hbe taken seriously.

    And let’s be frank; he’s a nasty piece of work. All pols have outsized egos; Weiner’s  even for a pol is off the charts. Had he been a more decent humna being to people he might have had another reason for people to look the other way. When you combine hubris and dishonesty no one was going to stand up for him.

     Except of course Schumer. At least we have been spared his Sunday press conferenc bullshit for a while. Hopefully Goldman Sachs can give the guy soemthing to do on Sunday afternoons. Would note both of these hacks got their start in south Brooklyn-and then immediately copped a mope to yuppier climes.  

  14. Ans if we could elect such an intellectual giant as George Bush (twice) then those who think Sarah Palin is little more than a joke better start being very concerned. 

    I believe it was Mencken who said we should never overestimate the intelligence of the American people?

  15. A Federal 1.5 million dollar pension isnt a bad deal.  I do feel sorry for Anthony Weiner, because now he is not a creditable person, and therefore he really has nothing.  May God bless and forgive him.

  16. BREAKING NEWS….

    Here’s one more – and it’s a woman!

    I had “relations” with Mrs. Clinton in the Mary Todd Lincoln bedroom.

    WHEW! am I glad I got that off my chest. But not to worry, I’m rehabilitated now. As for her….

  17. That “poor pervert.” Only in the most corrupt district in the country would the mentally ill Communists be defending this pervert.

    What else could one expect from the district that repeatedly elected Weiner the aptly named pervert, Carl Krueger indicted for bribery 30 years ago still allowed to pocket $1 Million for allowing developers to destroy Brooklyn and live with his homosexual lover in the former home of a mobster, Andrew Cuomo who allowed his first boss to molest dozens of boys in Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach and continued accepting pay checks from him even after Mr. Blutrich plead guilty to Pedophilia and testifying against John Gotti Jr -but recanted with the infamous line “How can you believe me – I’m a Pedophile”…. Let us not forget Chucky Schumer who along with his former DOT wife have been pocketing millions in bribes over the last 20 years and is so beholden to the Russian Mob and the billions they swindle from Medicaid, openly attends fund raisers at the Warldorf Astoria and praises their “contributions” to America.

    Should I go into the Brooklyn Court System where nepotism and patronage divvy up peoples assets like so much monopoly money and dispense “justice” literally out from the backs of  well stuffed envelopes and “returned favors for favorite sons/largest donors..”?

    Or how about the local Police who are giving New Orleans a run for their money in terms of corruption..  The 61 has been on the take for 30 years and “moonlights” for every Russian mob owned night club. The Police force who has been documented as employing mafia hitmen, bank robbers, stick-up artists, shake down artists, rapists, gang members, drug addicts and has never met a Constitutional Amendment that it didn’t violate, Can “mistake” a wallet for a gun and use an unarmed man as target practice, throws bicyclists off their bicycles and charges the rider with assaulting a cop.. yet somehow the locals are even more corrupt than the “norm” but remain out of the spotlight…

    Yes folks, this Sheepshead Bay Community sure is a shining light of good government for every other third-world cesspool to follow.

  18. Someone tell me why his fellow Democrats abandoned him so  quickly. I don’t follow politics too carefully  (I prefer honest hobbies like chess – oops, 2 Frenchman were caught cheating in a major tourney, forget that),  but I can only think, as I’ve stated in other posts, that Weiner was really not liked as a person by his fellow congress people. He did come across as  really arrogant and obnoxious. Same as Spitzer. Perhaps the lesson is, coduct yourself with a little dignity and humility and maybe you’ll get more support when times are tough.

  19. Of all these, the most amazing is the Chappaquiddick. How T. Kennedy survived that one, politically, is beyond me. I guess times are different.

    For those of you into  conspiracies (I am into reading about them, though I believe almost none of them),  Mary Jo Kopechne, ran with some dangerous people in the early 60’s, with some links into organized crime and the Kennedy assassination itself, and even into a younger Hillary Clinton!

  20. I checked out williesimpson.com, and I could tell the writer is really handsome and talented.  Feature him more Ned!

  21. Sins are all the same. They ‘miss the mark’ whether its by one inch or a hundred miles, they all suck. Weiner just wasn’t in the right place to get out of the charges against him.

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