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Rating the Greatest GOP Sex Scandals of the Past 20 Years

From Clarence Thomas to Mark Sanford, the definitive guide to randy Republicans
 
 
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Give this to Republicans: They know how to conduct sex scandals in style.

Oh sure, Democrats have their sex scandals, but they're not nearly as interesting. For one thing, most Democrats busted in sex scandals aren't the same type of overbearing moral scolds as your average GOP politician. (The one recent exception was former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose work shutting down prostitution rings left him open to charges of bald hypocrisy when he was caught rendezvousing with a prostitute himself.)

Additionally, Democratic sex scandals tend to be of the more vanilla nature: affairs with campaign workers and interns are pretty standard fare as far as modern political culture goes, as are visits to high-priced call girls.

The GOP's deviants, on the other hand, have brought a wealth of oddball debaucheries to the table, from failed bathroom-stall hookups to slimy messages sent to underage congressional pages to rumored S&M diaper fantasies. So let's review the past 20 years of Republican sex scandals and rate each one on a scale of 1 to 10 based on factors such as hypocrisy, legal liability, the damage inflicted upon the perpetrators' careers and overall comedy.

1991: Clarence Thomas

To be fair, none of the allegations against Thomas could ever be proved, and most of the congressional hearings on the matter amounted to he-said-she-said testimony. Even so, Anita Hill's cringe-inducing charges that Thomas allegedly talked openly about pornographic films and pubic hair in the workplace captivated the nation. The hearings also marked the first -- and hopefully the last -- time that Orrin Hatch mentioned"Long Dong Silver" on the floor of the Senate.

Rating: 6. Thomas was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice despite the controversy, so it's not like the scandal had any lasting damage on his career. Also, there's nothing particularly funny about sexual harassment in the workplace, so this rating is only as high as it is due to Hatch's appreciation for Long Dong Silver.

1993: Sen. Bob Packwood

Interestingly, Packwood was a rare Republican who was supportive of abortion rights and was described by Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman as a "friend of feminism." That view changed for the worse, however, when 10 women accused him of sexual harassment or misconduct in the pages of the Washington Post. Packwood's friends tried to come to his defense, but for the most part, they ended up doing more harm than good. Ed Westerdahl, a member of the steering committee for Packwood's first Senate race in 1968, told the New York Times that we should be more forgiving of his old boss' behavior because "20 years ago, at parties, I'd see people doing much more than he's being accused of, and nobody gave it a second thought," and "the pinching, touching, feeling was considered to be friendly, not harassing." Even if we accept this preposterous premise, of course, it should be noted that the Oregon senator was also committing adultery, and I'm pretty sure there are some very old laws around describing that as a no-no as well.

Rating: 2. The lack of overt hypocrisy, and the creepiness of Packwood's advances leave this one without any innate comic value. Sex scandals are only funny if they involve consensual sex, after all.

1990s: Rep. Newt Gingrich

Now this is where things get fun.

Throughout his career, this Georgia lawmaker has been one of the biggest moral charlatans in American political discourse. While he was impeaching President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Gingrich said that Clinton had shown "a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American" after he had reduced the office of the presidency to the "rough equivalent of the 'Jerry Springer' show." The whole time, of course, Newt was cheating on his second wife with a woman more than 20 years his younger (who would later become his third wife). And then there's the matter of his first wife, with whom Gingrich initiated a divorcewhile she was recovering from cancer surgery.

 
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