Toronto mayor Rob Ford continued his run of bafoonish behavior yesterday, barreling into a petite councilwoman in her mid-sixties like an out of control caribou. Fortunately, the nice woman was able to get up and continue with the meeting, but the blunder was just the latest in a long series of outlandish missteps that have seen the politician smoke crack, make a direct reference to performing oral sex on his wife, threaten lawsuits and show up to a football game despite the team publically asking him to stay away.
It’s the type of scandal you would never expect from someone who has accrued such power, but yet, like clockwork, every year features at least a few politicians behaving like supporting characters in a Todd Phillips movie. It’s not a new phenomenon either. You can circle back to pretty much any point in human history in which people were keeping detailed records and you’ll find drunkenness, orgies, treason, faked deaths and a wide variety of other unwholesome and frankly, kind of amusing activities.
So, in honor of Mayor Ford, here are fifteen politicians who came before him that couldn’t keep their shit together either.
Andrew JacksonAt various points during Jackson’s life, he was a Congressman, a Senator, a President, a General in the Tennessee militia/ United States Army, a judge and a planter. He was a gruff, no-nonsense character, and he wasn’t a big fan of taking shit from anyone. He threatened and feuded with numerous fellow politicians who saw the world in different ways, even expressing a desire to murder his own Vice President John C Calhoun (somewhat warranted because of this) while the two were in office together. Calhoun later resigned after he was essentially stripped of any influence he had, but his fate was nothing compared to that of Charles Dickinson.
In between his time in time as a Senator and time as President, Jackson feuded with Dickinson over a horserace bet and an insult the latter reportedly hurled at the former’s wife. After a series of letters to the paper calling the other out, Jackson proposed a duel. Instead of shooting immediately, the politician let his rival fire first. The bullet lodged just a few inches from Jackson’s heart. He calmed himself, wiped off the blood, slowly stared at Dickinson and fired one shot in steely cold blood that mowed down his foe. Many who witnessed the event were outraged at Jackson’s slow and methodical kill, and people were scared shitless of him for the rest of their lives.
Marion BarryBy his own later admission, Marion Barry lost almost complete control of his behavior after he was sworn in to serve his third term as Washington DC’s mayor in 1986. A combination of cocaine, alcohol and absolute power had done a number on his personality and motivation, causing him to stumble in most days around noon and accomplish almost nothing during the rest of the day. As rumors of his demons spiraled out of control, the FBI decided to set up a sting operation. They convinced his former mistress to ask him to meet her at a hotel room to smoke crack and have sex. Cameras in the room caught the Mayor lighting up, and they arrested him as he shouted one of the most famous phrases in the history of political scandals.
“Bitch set me up.” In some ways, those four words will always define Barry’s tumultuous career, but in other ways, the politician has actually done a hell of a job rebounding. Following a short prison stint in which he may or may not have received oral sex in the visitors’ room, he got back into politics and shockingly won his old mayorial job back in 1995. To this day, he still serves on the city council and loves to claim he was entrapped by the federal government.
Rod BlagojevichIllinois has a long history of corrupt politicians. Jesse Jackson Jr recently added to that pathetic history with his own imprisonment, but in all honesty, he’s basically a blip on a far seedier and more disgusting radar that includes recently disgraced and now imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich who holds the distinct honor of boasting the single worst approval ratings in the history of Rasmussen polling.
From skipping out on meetings he organized in Springfield to firing the wife of a notable fellow Democrat from her job at the Department of Children and Family Services following a feud with her husband, Blagojevich ran Illinois like a spoiled seven-year-old might his or her own birthday party. He was vengeful, manipulative, recklessly incompetent and ultimately stupid. He was eventually thrown out of office after he was recorded trying to sell then President-elect Barack Obama’s seat in the United States senate to the highest bidder.
John EdwardsStories of very powerful men cheating on their wives are a dime a dozen. If I were to include people on this list merely for extramarital affairs, there would be thousands. No, to get recognition with a sex scandal, you really need to do something extra heinous to stand out, like oh say father a child with a campaign worker while your wife is battling breast cancer and then maybe use campaign funds to cover the whole thing up. To top it all off, the former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee allegedly even told his mistress he would marry her and hire Dave Matthews Band to play at their wedding as soon as his wife died.
Poor Elizabeth Edwards passed away in 2010 about a year after she officially separated from her husband. He was by her bedside when she went, though it’s unclear whether she’d actually forgiven him for turning the twilight of her life into a deleted scene from The Jerry Springer Show. In recent years, a sex tape from Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter even emerged, but disappointingly, it was destroyed before the world could collectively judge it.
Richard NixonIn many ways, Nixon has gotten a little bit of a bum rap. He greatly eased tensions with China and even partnered with the Soviet Union on some joint space missions. He also deserves a huge pat on the back for ignoring all of the voter fraud claims following his loss to John F Kennedy in 1960. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, lying about a break-in he probably didn’t order is far from the worst thing to happen in the White House. That being said, Nixon was still the only President of the United States ever to resign in disgrace, and his obsession with enemies and perceived enemies was ludicrous.
Most of the people on this list are here because their personal lives were too flamboyant and ultimately too public. Nixon is here because he was too secretive. Forever convinced various critics and groups were out to get him, he taped every single conversation in his office and constantly schemed in relation to undercutting his enemies and various celebrities who he thought were undermining America. He would have been driven insane by the constant barrage of negativity on the Internet if he were alive today.
Larry CraigLarry Craig spent almost two decades as one of Idaho’s two senators. By the mid 2000s, it was widely assumed he would continue in that position indefinitely unless he was nominated for a cabinet post, but instead, the Republican wound up at the center of one of the strangest scandals in the history of American politics, one that involved homosexuality, possible hypocrisy, wide stances and whether or not people should be allowed to retract guilty pleas.
The incident in question occurred inside a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport. After several reports of sexual activity, the police decided to set up a sting operation. One officer sat inside a stall for an extended period of time. After awhile, he noticed Senator Craig pacing around and peering through the little slit. Eventually, Craig reportedly entered the stall next to the officer and began tapping his foot and rubbing it against the officer’s foot, which is a common sign for cottaging. According to the officer, Craig also allegedly stuck his hand into the other stall, which was enough to turn the weird encounter into an arrest. The politician tried to plead guilty to the incident quickly and quietly to avoid a scandal, but it later got huge airplay, thanks in part to Craig’s anti-gay public stances.
John ProfumoDuring the early 1960s, married British Secretary of State for War John Profumo began sleeping with a call girl named Christine Keeler. Unbeknownst to him, she was also regularly going to bed with two different jazz musicians and more importantly, a Russian spy. Thanks to a vicious fight between the two jazz musicians in which one was stabbed in the face, the entire sordid affair started to slowly unravel in the press. Profumo at first lied to the House Of Commons and denied bedding the call girl, Christine Keller, but he later confessed and was forced to resign his position.
Fallout from the scandal eventually led to Prime Minster Harold Macmillan’s resignation, the suicide of popular socialite Dr. Stephen Ward who introduced Keller and Profumo and the end of Russian spy Yevgeny Ivanov’s marriage. It also made members of the media far more open in the United Kingdom to reporting on personal life scandals of politicians, and it didn’t exactly ease any of the escalating tensions between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
Wilbur MillsBack in 1974, Congressman Wilbur Mills was pulled over for driving under the influence. He’d forgotten to turn his lights on and seemed destined to be the latest in a long series of elected officials to be busted for operating while intoxicated when something legitimately shocking happened: a stripper from Argentina hopped out of the vehicle and made a run for it, diving into a nearby man made reservoir in an attempt to get away. She was apprehended and taken to the hospital not long after. Later, she was identified as a married burlesque dancer named Fanne Foxe.
In a total Rob Ford move, Mills decided to call a press conference to clear the whole thing up, but his plea for forgiveness only made everything a whole lot worse after he decided to hold it in the performer’s dressing room alongside her husband. He also may have done a little boozing prior to the event, the shame of which was enough to send him into rehab and admit he had a problem. Pro tip: if you’re ever caught wrist deep in some shenanigans with a stripper, it’s probably not best to try and smooth things out with your family and friends from a table set up inside the strip club.
William LangerBack in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for governors to require state employees to donate a portion of their salaries to political parties, but in 1933, the political opponents of North Dakota governor William Langer decided to use the practice to get him thrown out of office. Three separate federal trials captivated Dakotans and drew larger media attention, but for the sake of this list, it doesn’t really matter whether or not he was guilty. Clearly, he wasn’t way the hell over the line. What matters instead is what he decided to do when he was ordered to leave office. In a move that could be described as Family Guy-ish, he hunkered down inside the governor’s mansion, declared North Dakota a sovereign nation and instituted martial law.
Can you imagine what type of brouhaha that would have caused if cable news existed today? Sweet Anderson Cooper! There would have been a hundred cameras on the mansion within a day, and no one would have had any interest in talking about anything else. Since it occurred in the 1930s, however, Langer eventually gave up his fight, was declared victorious in a subsequent trial and won his job as governor again during the next election. He later went on to be a senator for almost two decades. By the end, he was so popular he didn’t even bother campaigning.
Gary ConditHere’s a good piece of advice if you ever want to run for public office. Don’t make a big to-do about family values and then have an affair with an intern that’s younger than your daughter. That’s what Gary Condit did, but rather than merely eat public shame, he found himself in far bigger trouble when the poor woman, Chandra Levy, up and disappeared back in 2001. On at least two occasions, Condit lied to the police about having an affair; so, naturally, when evidence emerged that he was hitting that, a high percentage of the general public jumped to the conclusion that he straight up murdered her in some fucked-up attempt to keep her from going public and ruining his image.
Upon further review, however, Condit was just your run of the mill sleazebag and liar. Levy was actually murdered by an illegal immigrant named Ingmar Guandique. Still, the stain to Condit’s reputation never completely went away, and despite attempting to win re-election, he lost to his former aide in the Democratic primary. In the years afterwards, Condit filed some lawsuits related to everyone assuming he was a murderer, but given the shadiness of his own behavior, it was very difficult to get anywhere with those allegations.
Ted KennedyDuring the late 1960s, it was widely assumed Ted Kennedy would eventually make a serious run at the presidency. His brothers John and Robert had both been murdered, and good will toward the whole family was extremely high. In the summer of 1969, however, Kennedy drove a woman home from a party and accidentally ran the car off the side of the road and into the water. Ted was able to make it out alive, but rather than alert police officers for help, he simply left the scene and walked back to the party. Two friends accompanied him back to the scene and dove in the water to try and help Mary Jo Kopechne, but they weren’t able to reach her. Despite assurances to the friends that he would call police, he instead went back to his hotel and fell asleep.
Kennedy was later convicted of leaving the scene of the accident, and his wife suffered a miscarriage as a result of the stress. It also prevented Kennedy from ever making a serious run at the presidency because each time he tried to progress past the Senate, a new round of specials would be aired by the networks about the disastrous night. Sadly, Ted didn’t exactly embrace sobriety after the accident either. He had more than a few rough nights afterward, including one in which he pleaded with two family members to accompany him drinking, brought several women back to his house and played a role in a befuddling incident that led to accusations of rape against his nephew.
Anthony WeinerNot sending naked pictures is often advice society gives to teenage girls, but Anthony Weiner definitely could have used those sage words when he first started using Twitter to send much younger women pictures of his penis. Following one of the most lampooned scandals in the history of politics, he resigned from office and vowed to work on his marriage and make a political comeback. He attempted it earlier this year in the New York mayorial race but he quickly lost support after even more dick picture accusations came to light, this time after he reportedly used the greatest fake name of all-time “Carlos Danger”.
That’s the kicker. It’s one thing to get busted on a weird sex thing. It’s another thing to get busted on the exact same weird sex thing again. If nothing else, that’s a blatant sign of a lack of self control, and at this point, it would be a shock to ever see Weiner hold a high level political position again, despite the fact that he’s still only forty-nine-years-old. I mean, honestly, would you vote for someone who not only can't keep it in his pants but can't keep it off Twitter?
Silvio BerlusconiThe former Prime Minister of Italy has fourteen subheadings under the controversy section of his Wikipedia page. Fourteen! It’s hard to even know where to begin, but let’s start with the fact that his own wife published an open letter claiming he was a terrible father and not well mentally. She was obviously very displeased with the rash of rumors about her then-estranged husband sleeping with an army of prostitutes including some who were supposedly underage. Following a media firestorm and more than a few women speaking on the record, the government launched a full scale investigation into what the hell happened.
He was later convicted of using millions of euros to pay for an underage prostitute. Beyond that, rumors also raged that he participated in orgies that may have involved as many as twenty different women at the same time. God only knows how a man in his seventies could have stayed that energetic and limber, but considering he has almost six billion dollars in assets, it’s safe to say he’s getting treated by the best doctors possible.
John StonehouseIn what can only be described as a British episode of 48 Hours Mysteries, Parliament member John Stonehouse decided to fake his own death in 1974. He was being investigated for some shady accounting schemes and felt the noose tightening. So, he headed for the United States, left a pile of his clothes and some identification by the ocean and disappeared. Word quickly travelled back to England and obituaries were run, but in actuality, the politician was on his way to Australia to start a new life.
He could have potentially gotten away with it too, but a bank teller grew suspicious when he moved a large amount of money between a few accounts. She alerted the police who began watching him. Apparently a very self-absorbed man, he bought every paper with articles about himself and often read them in public. Eventually, the police were able to match him to pictures of Stonehouse, and he was sent back to England. Years later, it was discovered that he was also a spy for the Czechoslovak Soviet Republic, which adds another bizarre wrinkle to the story.
Matthew LyonMatthew Lyon’s name didn’t enter the history books quite as many times as some of the other founding fathers who played a political role during the United States’ early years, but the multi-term Congressman does hold the distinction of being the first ever to be taken up on an ethics charge. The close ally of Thomas Jefferson’s was involved in what may well be the most ridiculous fight ever to take place on the Senate floor. He was giving a speech about fighting for the common man when his fellow Congressman, Roger Griswold, made a joke about his dismissal from the US Army. Lyon became so enraged that he tilted his head back and spit all over his political rival.
Tensions rose almost immediately, but a few days later, they kicked into overdrove when Griswold snuck up on Lyon and attacked him with his cane. Not to be outdone on the crazy scale, Lyon ran over to a nearby fireplace, grabbed the poker and started hitting Griswold with it. The other Congressman quickly jumped in the middle of the two men and broke up the battle, but Lyon was widely despised even more by his political rivals from that point forward. He was later jailed under the bullshit Alien & Sedition Acts, but in an amusing turn of events, he won re-election while incarcerated. He later was freed, just in time to cast the deciding vote for future president Thomas Jefferson.