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'I'm not a crook': the top 5 US political scandals

Watergate and other political scandals that have rocked the US, and the world.

Richard Nixon resigns in 1974
Richard Nixon resigns in 1974
Image: Associated Press Photo

YESTERDAY, FORMER ILLINOIS governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell the US senate seat vacated by president Barack Obama in 2008.

It was one of a raft of corruption charges to hit the disgraced politician who now faces significant time behind bars. The US political scene is no stranger to scandals. In the state of Illinois alone, since the 1960s three of the last nine governors have served time in prison. Blagojevich will make that four when he is sentenced in August.

But what are the top 5 political scandals that have hit American politics over the years? TheJournal.ie takes  a look:

1. Watergate

Undoubtedly, this was the biggest scandal to hit US politics in the country’s history. In a little over two years, a late-night break-in at the Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington in 1972 would eventually lead to the resignation of president Richard Nixon, the only president to ever resign his office.

The Nixon re-election committee’s part in the break-in and the subsequent attempt to cover it up was unearthed largely through the work of two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their story was made famous in the film starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, All The President’s Men.

Nixon was not implicated in the break-in but rather the attempt by his re-election committee, ironically named CREEP, to cover it up. Several administration officials would eventually be convicted and imprisoned for their part in the scandal.

For his part, Nixon famously insisted: “I’m not a crook”:

But, facing certain impeachment, he would resign in August 1974. He was later pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford:

2. Lewinsky scandal

Probably the biggest political sex scandal to ever hit US politics. President Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinksy led to his impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. But he was subsequently acquitted of all charges by the US Congress.

The president originally maintained he had never conducted sexual relations with Lewinsky and said he wanted to go back to work for the American people:

But he later admitted to those same American people that indeed he had conducted an affair with Lewinsky:

3. Chappaquiddick

It is widely believed that this was the scandal which prevented there from being another Kennedy in the White House.

In July 1969, the young Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, the brother of John F Kennedy, went to a party in Chappaquiddick Island. It was reported that as he was later driving a young woman named Marie Jo Kopechne back to her hotel, he took a wrong turn and the car plunged into the water. Kennedy got out alive but Kopechne didn’t. He would later plead guilty to a charge of leaving the scene after causing injury.

The incident is thought to have influenced Kennedy’s decision not to campaign for the presidency in 1972 and 1976. He ran an insurgent campaign against his party colleague and incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980 but failed to win the nomination.  Following his death in 2009, CNN replayed this speech Kennedy gave a week after the Chappaquiddick incident:

4. Eliot Spitzer

The governor of New York was forced to resign after it emerged in 2008 that he frequented the ironically named Emperors Club VIP, meeting one call girl at a cost of over $1,000 per hour.

It later emerged that Spitzer had seven or eight liaisons with women from the same agency over a six month period. And prior to that he paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over a period of several years when he was New York attorney general.  Spitzer came into office threatening to get tough on Wall Street but ultimately his extra-marital liaisons brought his credibility and his governorship down. After resigning in March 2008, he later rebuilt his career as a talk show host on CNN.

His rise and fall is encapsulated in the documentary film Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, the ‘Client 9′ a reference to Spitzer’s name as it appeared in the affidavit filed to the US federal court making the original, explosive allegations:

5. Weiner

The first political scandal of the social media age. New York congressman Anthony Weiner’s online dalliances with women through Twitter and Facebook would eventually lead to him being exposed in more ways then one.

Earlier this month, Anthony Weiner claimed for a week that he had not sent a lewd picture of his genitals to a follower on Twitter, saying his account was hacked.

But unable to deny the picture wasn’t of his nether regions and amidst the emergence of more allegations and more inappropriate photos, Weiner – a one time favourite to be the next mayor of New York – was forced to admit in an extraordinary tear-stained press conference that he had conducted several inappropriate relationships with women through social media sites:

He initially refused to step down perhaps believing he could salvage his reputation but as more allegations emerged the pressure became unrelenting and Weiner resigned to heckles from the crowd:

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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