The Right-Wing's 20 Biggest Sex Hypocrites
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The Republican Party wasn’t always synonymous with far-right Christian fundamentalism. The late five-term Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was considered the epitome of an arch-conservative when he ran for president against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, had no use for the Religious Right. Goldwater famously said that “the Religious Right scares the hell out of me,” and he said of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, “All good Christians should kick him in the ass.”
It isn’t that Goldwater abandoned right-wing ideas and became passionately liberal/progressive; rather, the Republican Party moved way to the right of him on social issues. From the early 1980s on, the GOP has pushed an agenda of militant social conservatism—and the more the GOP became the party of far-right Christian fundamentalism, the more Republican politicians and the evangelists who supported them became involved in major sex scandals.
Of course, the Democratic Party has had plenty of sex scandals as well. But most of the Democrats who have become involved in major sex scandals (Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Gary Hart, among others) had not marketed themselves as extreme moralists. Post-1970s Republicans, all too often, have been self-righteous, preachy, overbearing, holier-than-thou witch hunters—and in many cases, the ones who screamed the loudest about how godly they were turned out to be the exact opposite. Below are 20 of the top socially conservative hypocrites of the Religious Right.
1. Jimmy Swaggart
Pentecostal televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who is a cousin of rock-and-roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and country singer Mickey Gilley, was preaching fire-and-brimstone Christian fundamentalism before the 1980s; his television program started in 1975. But it was during the 1980s that Swaggart rose to prominence in right-wing politics and, along with Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. James Robison and Rev. Pat Robertson, greatly influenced the Christian Right’s influence on the GOP. Swaggart’s sermons are as political as they are religious, and he has never been shy about describing feminists, liberals, Democrats and rock musicians as agents of Satan who promote immorality at every turn. But in 1988, it was revealed that the adulterous Swaggart had been cheating on his wife with a New Orleans prostitute named Debra Murphree. And his association with prostitutes did not end after his famous “I have sinned” speech of 1988. In 1991, Swaggart was with prostitute Rosemary Garcia when he was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol; Garcia said Swaggart had asked her for sex. On top of all that, Swaggart has admitted to having a long history of porn consumption (even though he has often called for tougher enforcement of obscenity laws). And he appears to have dabbled in something else Christian fundamentalists condemn: BDSM. In a 1989 Penthouse interview, a woman named Catherine Campen said that when she was having an affair with Swaggart, he asked her to beat him with a riding crop.
2. Laura Schlessinger
Although America’s Religious Right has been dominated by Protestant fundamentalists, not all far-right culture warriors are Pentecostals or Southern Baptists. For example, talk radio host Laura Schlessinger, a.k.a. Dr. Laura, was a convert to Orthodox Judaism (before renouncing it in 2003), and she has made a career out of railing against sex education, abortion, premarital sex, porn, feminism and homosexuality (the gay-bashing Schlessinger once said that “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys”). But for all her moralizing, Schlessinger hasn’t always acted like a Puritan; in the late 1990s, some nude and topless photos she had posed for in the mid-1970s were published on the Internet. The photos were taken by the late radio shock-jock Bill Balance, who sold them to an adult Web site. Schlessinger filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement, but a court ruled that the photos were not her intellectual property. Schlessinger’s “queen of family values” routine is also laughable considering that when her mother died in 2002, it was widely reported that Dr. Laura hadn’t spoken to her since 1986.
3. Newt Gingrich
In 1998, President Bill Clinton was lambasted by a long list of Republicans when it was revealed that he had cheated on his wife, Hillary Clinton, with intern Monica Lewinsky. One of his loudest critics was House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich (who asserted that Clinton showed “a level of disrespect and decadence that should appall every American”). But while Gingrich was lambasting Clinton for committing adultery and trying to get him impeached, he was also cheating on his second wife, Marianne Ginther, with a woman (Callista Bisek, who became his third wife) who was 20 years younger. And that wasn’t the first time Gingrich committed adultery. In the early 1980s, Gingrich cheated on his first wife, Jackie Battley, with Ginther—and when Battley was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, Gingrich insisted on discussing the terms of their divorce. After that, Mr. Family Values refused to pay Battley either alimony or child support (a local church took up a collection to help her out financially). Despite his history of serial adultery, Gingrich had no problem playing the “family values” card during his recent bid for the GOP presidential nomination.