The Right-Wing's 20 Biggest Sex Hypocrites
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4. David Vitter
Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is infamous for his extreme social conservatism and for pandering to the Christian Right. Vitter has supported a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage nationwide (although he claims to support “states rights,” Vitter makes an exception when it comes to gay marriage), promoted abstinence-only sex education, called for school board meetings in Louisiana to open with prayers, and repeatedly preached against abortion. Vitter loves to play the red state/blue state card, saying that he represents socially conservative “Louisiana values” rather than secular “Massachusetts values.” But in 2007, it was revealed that Vitter had been a client of the Washington, DC escort service operated by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, a.k.a. the DC Madam; Vitter admitted he had cheated on his wife with a prostitute, but no criminal charges were filed because of the statute of limitations. Despite his blatant hypocrisy, Vitter was re-elected to the Senate in 2010.
5. Rush Limbaugh
“The Rush Limbaugh Show” has always been full of sexual contradictions. On one hand, the far-right talk radio host has a long history of supporting the Christian Right and telling his audience that the Republican Party is the true voice of morality in the United States. On the other hand, the twice-divorced Limbaugh is quite fond of off-color humor (“PMSNBC” is his name for MSNBC) and sexual innuendos. Limbaugh will use sex to boost ratings at the same time he’s preaching God, family values and morality to the GOP base. Limbaugh’s schizophrenic relationship with sex was recently exemplified by his heavily publicized attack on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, whom he denounced as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for saying that health insurance plans should cover female contraception. Limbaugh said that if other people were going to pay for Fluke to have sex, she should film the sexual act for his viewing pleasure. In other words, he was asking Fluke to make a porn video, which is ironic in light of how much time Republicans have spent railing against the adult entertainment industry. Limbaugh’s hypocrisy doesn’t end there; previous Limbaugh scandals have ranged from his well-documented addiction to painkillers in 2003 to being detained for three hours at the Palm Beach Airport in 2006 for possessing a bottle of Viagra that wasn’t in his name.
6. Larry Craig
During the many years he spent in Congress (18 years in the Senate preceded by 10 years in the House of Representatives), Republican Larry Craig of Idaho was a strident social conservative with a very anti-gay record. Craig opposed gay men serving in the U.S. military, and he favored adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have outlawed same-sex marriage nationwide. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group that rates politicians’ voting records on gay issues, gave Craig a rating of 0 in 2004. But in June 2007, the married Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s room stall at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport; an undercover police officer said that Craig’s behavior indicated he was seeking a sexual encounter (Craig pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct). And in December 2007, no less than eight gay men alleged to the Idaho Statesman that they had either had sexual affairs with Craig or that he had made sexual advances to them.
7. Ted Haggard
Evangelical minister Ted Haggard has never been known for embracing a moderate approach to Protestant Christianity. Very much a fundamentalist, Haggard was a strong supporter of George W. Bush’s presidency and did a lot to rally GOP “values voters” in 2004. Haggard has been quite the culture warrior, loudly preaching against abortion, premarital sex, adultery and gay marriage. But in 2006, a male escort named Mike Jones revealed that the married Haggard had been a client; in addition to paying for sex and committing adultery, Jones said, Haggard was fond of using crystal meth. Admitting to his followers that he was guilty of “sexual immorality,” Jones resigned from his position with the National Association of Evangelicals.
8. Henry Hyde
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, but the late Illinois Republican Henry Hyde (who spent 32 years in the House of Representatives and died in 2007) threw plenty of stones (figuratively speaking) during the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Clinton, Hyde insisted, had disgraced the presidency by committing adultery and lying about it under oath. But it turned out that Hyde had his own history of adultery. In the 1960s, Hyde was married with four sons when he had an affair with a woman named Cherie Snodgrass, who had three children with Fred Snodgrass, her husband at the time. In a 1998 interview with Salon.com, Fred Snodgrass denounced Hyde as a “hypocrite who broke up my family.” Hyde described his affair with Cherie as a “youthful indiscretion,” although he was 41 when the affair started.
9. Jim Bakker
Jimmy Swaggart was not the first right-wing Pentecostal televangelist to be involved in a major sex scandal. In 1987, Jim Bakker (who co-hosted “The PTL Club” with his wife, Tammy Faye Bakker) was disgraced when it came out that he had cheated on his wife with church secretary Jessica Hahn and paid her $265,000 to keep quiet. In 1989, Bakker was convicted of fraud and racketeering charges in a federal court and sentenced to 45 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but he was granted parole in 1994. Swaggart, ironically, was vehemently critical of Bakker in 1987, calling him “a cancer on the body of Christ” because of his affair with Hahn—and all the while, Swaggart was every bit the adulterer himself.
10. James West
The late Republican James West, who died in 2006, was a champion of anti-gay causes during his years in Washington State politics (first in the Washington State senate, then as mayor of Spokane). West promoted, among other things, a blatantly discriminatory bill that would have prohibited gay men and women from working for schools, daycare centers and certain state agencies. But in 2004, West was caught in a sex scandal when the Spokane Spokesman-Review conducted a sting operation and alleged that West, in a gay online chat room, offered a possible City Hall internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old man (in reality, the “18-year-old” was a private investigator hired by the Spokesman-Review). The Spokane County Republican Party called for West’s resignation, and in 2005, he lost his position as mayor when voters opted to recall him.
11. John Ensign
During the years he represented Nevada in the U.S. Senate (and before that, the House of Representatives), Republican John Ensign was held in high regard by the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and other Christian Right theocrats. Staunchly anti-abortion, he was a Pentecostal who considered himself “born again.” He voted in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and he was active in the Promise Keepers. The Christian Coalition gave him a 100% rating in 2003, while the Human Rights Campaign gave him a rating of only 11% in 2006. Like many other Republicans, Ensign called for Bill Clinton’s resignation in 1998, saying that an adulterer was unfit to be president. But as much as Ensign liked to talk about the sanctity of marriage, he didn’t practice what he preached; Ensign ended up resigning from the Senate in 2011 because of the scandal surrounding his adulterous affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of Douglas Hampton, an administrative aid in Ensign’s office and a close personal friend.