Most of the major decisions that politicians make go unnoticed by the majority of Americans. That might be because the political process can seem a little distant from one’s everyday reality – even a bit boring. But when a political scandal emerges, it transcends the niche political columns, infiltrating the front pages and gossip columns, and entering into the collective consciousness of the United States and internationally.
Everyone tunes in to the news when a scandal breaks, eager to watch every moment of the controversial events unfold. Whether the scandal be a sexual affair, a web of financial cheats, or a deceitful concoction of international spies and espionage, even the least politically aware citizen is sure to find a huge political scandal fascinating. While we’re waiting for the lies to be exposed and the politicians responsible for the scandal to brought to light, the veil that shrouds political life is temporarily lifted revealing a sordid, captivating underbelly.
10. Marilyn Monroe and The Kennedys
You don’t get more scandalous than an affair between a married and very popular President of the United States and a Hollywood sex symbol. John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were both rumored to have been love interests of Marilyn Monroe in the early 1960s. But it was John F. Kennedy, who became President of the United States in 1961, that Marilyn Monroe held a true flame for.
Despite Kennedy’s marriage to Jackie Kennedy, he and Monroe had reportedly spent weekends together and had multiple phone calls that came through the White House switchboard. Among more far fetched rumors, some conjecture that Kennedy employed the tunnels under the White House to sneak Monroe in for nightly visits.
Though the affairs were quieted by Kennedy’s entourage, Monroe’s infatuation became a public embarrassment. The concerns about the Kennedy-Monroe affairs were silenced when Monroe’s body was discovered in her home. Despite the official reports which state Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, there are many rumors that the Kennedys had her killed in order to prevent a political disaster.
9. John Edwards’ Affair
Most political scandals that begin on the front page of the National Enquirer don’t get much attention. But the John Edwards/ Rielle Hunter affair managed to make it from the tabloids to international media platforms in record breaking time.
It turned out that Rielle Hunter, a producer who was hired to make documentaries for the Edwards presidential campaign in 2006, was much more than just a mistress; she was the mother of Edwards’ daughter. Edwards denied that the child was his and went to great lengths to keep the media and others from linking him to his child. Edwards used campaign money to pay off his assistant, who knew about the affair and the child. He was also using campaign money to silence and support Hunter and the child.
In the end, however, the truth came out. Edwards fell out of the presidential campaign and was indicted by a North Carolina grand jury on six felony charges. After a very long and extensive trial Edwards was found not guilty in 2012, but he eventually admitted to being the child’s father.
8. Veterans Health Administration Scandal
You might think that the United States Armed Forces members who have served their country would be given top level care after their years of service. However, the opposite appears to be true. In 2014, a Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Health Administration facility was reported to have seen at least 40 United States Armed Forces veterans die while waiting for care. The problem doesn’t stop at just that facility. Other VA medical centers are reported to have the same problems and are under investigation by the Office of Inspector General.
After an initial VA audit, it was found that more than 120,000 veterans were left waiting for – or never got – care at medical facilities. It was also discovered that schedulers were pressured to engage in inappropriate practices in order to make it appear that wait times were not so lengthy. The investigation also uncovered unsanitary clinics and an 8 year wait for VA psychiatric initial evaluation.
The acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, was bombarded by the scandal and resigned from his position almost immediately.
7. The Pentagon Papers
The Pentagon Papers were a collection of Department of Defense studies of the U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were photographed and copied by Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who opposed the war, and made them available to the American public. He gave a copy to the New York Times, which published articles based on the report.
Despite a 1971 temporary restraining order against further publication from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Times and the Washington Post won a court ruling that allowed them to continue publication under the First Amendment.
The Pentagon Papers were instrumental in revealing that the presidential administrations of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson all misled the public about the extent of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
6. Downing Street Memo
There have been several accounts that President George W. Bush’s “intelligence” claiming there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was completely false. However, the first of those claims came by way of the UK press. What is now termed the ‘Downing Street Memo’ was released in 2002 by The London Times.
In it, was proof that Bush was plotting to report false information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in order to finally take out the Iraqi leader. The time for such military action was right considering the terrorist threat loomed over the United States. But Bush needed support and he found it in British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Though the document made waves in the UK, it barely scratched the surface of newspapers in the U.S. In fact, the next month Bush made the public campaign for the invasion of Iraq. Congress voted to grant President Bush authority to use force if necessary in late October just before the British and Americans got the resolution passed in early November by the U.N. Security Council.
5. The Iran – Contra Affair
Ronald Reagan was a beloved U.S. President during the 1980s. But he was also surrounded by loyal officials who went to great lengths to cover up his involvement in an arms deal with Iran. In 1985, Reagan’s administration gave weapons to Iran for the release of American hostages that were being held by Hezbollah terrorist. Not just a few handguns, though; part of the deal was the United States sent 508 American-made TOW anti-tank missiles from Israel to Iran. Of course there was a profit made from the deal. The money was sent to fund Nicaraguan contras.
There was no direct link that could be established between President Reagan, especially when it was he who set up an investigatory committee to investigate himself. Ultimately it was decided that Reagan did not have full knowledge of the events.
4. The Keating Five
During the 1980s, the savings-and-loan crises plagued the United States. Deregulation allowed savings and loan associations to offer more saving products, like adjustable rate mortgages, and gave more lending authority and less regulatory oversight. The changes led to the collapse of 747 savings and loan associations, including the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.
Charles H. Keating Jr., the Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, took full use of the deregulation and made very risky investments with depositor’s money. He also established connections with several members of Congress. Five of those members, known as the Keating Five, accepted millions of dollars from Keating. In exchange, they kept the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and Keating himself from being investigated by regulators.
When the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association collapsed in 1989, the five senators were accused of corruption. These five senators included, Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, John McCain, and Donald W. Riegle. After the investigation, Cranston, DeConcini, and Riegle were reprimanded. Senators Glenn and McCain were full cleared of any wrong doing. McCain kept his seat in the Senate and even managed to gain the Republican Party nomination for the 2008 Presidential Election.
3. Edward Snowden Leaks
Edward Snowden was an average North Carolina-born U.S. citizen before May of 2013. While working at the NSA’s Oahu office in information-technology, Snowden took notice to certain programs, specifically one known as Prism. The NSA was spying on average American citizens via phone calls and internet use. Snowden began copying documents and compiling data that he felt were an invasion of American’s privacy.
Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong, China before he leaked the documents. It didn’t take the U.S. government more than a couple of weeks to charge Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person. Snowden would be tried under the Espionage Act if he were to step foot on American soil again. For now, he is hiding out in Russia and is still highly opposed to government spying.
2. Clinton & Lewinsky
In 1995, Bill Clinton was in his first term as President of the United States and Monica Lewinsky was an unpaid intern at the White House. In the following years, a sexual relationship developed between Lewinsky and President Clinton. However, both denied any such relationship existed.
Despite that, Lewinsky began speaking about her relationship with Clinton to her co-worker Linda Tripp. The conversations were taped by Tripp and then turned over to Kenneth Starr, a man who was investigating other matters of the Clinton presidency.
On January 17, 1988 after years of silence, the scandal broke in the mainstream media. President Clinton and the White House fully denied the rumors and even testified under oath that he did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky. For months, Clinton and Lewinsky both remained silent. But after receiving immunity for her grand jury testimony, Lewinsky broke her silence. She turned over evidence which contained Clinton’s DNA.
President Bill Clinton was left with no option but to admit in a taped grand jury testimony that he did in fact have an “improper physical relationship” with Lewinsky. Had Clinton admitted his affair immediately, the scandal would have ended there. However, the President had lied under oath, meaning he had perjured himself. Congress sought to impeach President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice, however the vote resulted in Clinton’s favor and he remained in office.
Whether you were alive for the Watergate scandal or had not yet come into the world, you have most likely heard of or heard reference to the most famous political scandal in American history. Richard Nixon had already been in office for a full term and was seeking reelection in 1972. Political tensions were high due to the seemingly unending Vietnam War. Coupled with President Richard Nixon’s tendency towards paranoia, running a successful reelection campaign would require much political trickery.
Members of Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President broke into the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate headquarters. Copies of top-secret documents were stolen and the office phones were bugged. During a second attempt to fix defective bugs, the group was caught and arrested. Nixon denied connection to them and won his bid for reelection.
However, the President made a vital mistake. Due to his paranoia, Nixon had taped every conversation that had occurred within the Oval Office. Though he tried to keep the tapes safe, he was ordered to turn them over. The tapes provided evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate Scandal. Impeachment was threatened, forcing Richard Nixon to resign on August 8, 1974.
Nixon was pardoned by Gerald Ford, though most of his aides and those involved in Watergate were sent to federal prison. Richard Nixon was never charged with any crimes, but his abuse of presidential power follows his time in office to this day.