It’s election day in Canada! Given that NDP leader Jack Layton could conceivably end up prime minister and given that I’ve written a book that’s partly about sex, I thought it’d be fitting to look back at the 10 best political sex scandals. Layton, of course, was revealed this past weekend to have visited a rather shady massage parlour years ago. He says he didn’t know it was one of those kinds of places (uh huh), but neverthelesss, the news doesn’t seem to have hurt him or his party. It looks like they may get a happy ending after all.
Truth be told, there have been so many political sex scandals over the years that it would be tough to track them all. I’ve limited my list to those involving top-level politicians, or those who were just too interesting to pass up.
10. Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson wasn’t just the father of the Declaration of Independence. DNA testing of descendents in 1998 confirmed the president also fathered at least one of six children from slave Sally Hemings. As with Layton, it’s believed that Jefferson’s political opponents leaked the rumour to journalists way back in 1802, which only goes to show that politicians using the media to accomplish their ends has a long and proud tradition.
9. John F. Kennedy
It must have been tough to be Jackie O. JFK was a lady’s man of the first degree and he carried on numerous, poorly concealed affairs. From Swedish mistresses to Marilyn Monroe, Kennedy just couldn’t seem to keep it in his pants. Since then, he’s achieved almost legendary status as a president. History obviously doesn’t penalize one for adultery.
8. Frederic Mitterand
Sex scandals aren’t just for Americans. Frederic Mitterand, nephew of former French president Francois Mitterand, admitted in a 2005 book that he had sex with “boys” as a sex tourist in Thailand. The issue was compounded when Mitterand, France’s culture minister, in 2009 called for the release of director Roman Polanski, who was wanted in the U.S. for having sex with a minor. The situation did not do French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy any favours.
7. Gary Hart
Hart was never president but he could have been, seeing as he was the Democratic front-runner in 1988 when his scandal broke. It turned out Hart was having an affair with Donna Rice, a marketing employee for a pharmaceutical firm. Hart dropped out of the race and the presidency ultimately went to George Bush Sr. It’s kind of scary what sort of ripple effects a simple sex scandal can have, no? (By the way, Rice now heads up an anti-porn group.)
6. Helen Chenoweth
There just aren’t that many female politicians who have engaged in sex scandals – obviously because there are nowhere near as many female politicians. But Chenoweth, who was a Republican representative from Idaho during the Clinton years, showed that women are just as capable at cheating and deception. She was one of the first to denounce Bill Clinton for his transgressions, only to later admit she herself had conducted a six-year affair with a rancher. The difference? Chenoweth said God had forgiven her for it.
5. Ramran Kadyrov
The Chechen Prime Minister Kadyrov spun a similar holier-than-thou image for himself, which made his getting nailed with two prostitutes in a sauna in 2006 that much more fitting. Kadyrov has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who himself has flirted with sex scandal. The big one on Putin is sure to eventually drop, unless the journalists who are about to break it drop first.
4. Moshe Katsav
The former Israeli president was recently found guilty of rape and other sex crimes, including sexual harassment, from a period spanning the 1990s to his run as chief from 2000 to 2007. Israel labelled his actions a “disgrace” and Katsav could face prison time.
3. Margaret Trudeau
Canada’s best known sex scandal had a bit of a twist to it. It wasn’t actually the country’s leader – Pierre Trudeau – but his wife that was at the centre of it. In 1977, Margaret was seen partying hard with the Rolling Stones. To avoid the media, she headed to New York – the same way Mick Jagger was heading – on what she called her “ultimate freedom trip.”
2. Silvio Berlusconi
The Italian prime minister is doing his best to reinforce the Latin lover stereotype, with numerous sex scandals under his belt. The latest include an underage stripper named Ruby (Berlusconi is 74… ewww) and a number of wannabe celebrities. It takes a special kind of male slut to motivate hundreds of thousands of women into protesting.
1. Bill Clinton
Bubba’s affair with his intern, Monica Lewinsky, is certainly the best known and most publicized sex scandal of our times. The blue dress, the cigar smoking, the “I did not have sexual relations” quote, the impeachment – so many memorable moments. Of course, Clinton is now remembered as one of the better U.S. presidents. That’s what happens when your successor turns out to be a total moron.
Peter Nowak is an award-winning journalist and author of the best-selling book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. He has been a staff writer for the CBC, National Post and New Zealand Herald, while his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail, among others. His personal blog can be found at www.wordsbynowak.com.