The word “scandal” gets bandied about a lot nowadays. Yet there have been some political scandals throughout American history that truly fit the bill. From presidents engaged in extramarital affairs to rebel groups funded illegally, these events made global news and left countless political careers in tatters. Here are five such scandals worth knowing about.
On June 17, 1972, a group of men working on behalf of the Nixon administration burgled the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Nixon persistently denied any involvement, despite evidence to the contrary. A lengthy investigation ensued, which led to the discovery of a taping system within the Oval Office.
The so-called Nixon White House tapes were eventually handed over to authorities, revealing Nixon’s guilt. Nixon resigned from office soon after to avoid impeachment.
2. Bill Clinton’s Affairs
Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs are common knowledge these days. But prior to his 1992 presidential run, they remained rumors.
That changed when an Arkansas state employee called Gennifer Flowers claimed – and later declared under oath – that she and Clinton had had a 12-year fling. He denied it. But then, in 1998, Monica Lewinsky came forward alleging that she and the president had slept together.
Clinton denied this affair, too, but later confessed. An impeachment trial followed to address whether or not he’d perjured himself. He was acquitted by the Senate.
3. The Iran-Contra Affair
One of the biggest threats to Reagan’s presidency came in 1985 when seven American hostages were held by Iranian-backed terrorists
In brokering a deal for their release, the US sold weapons to Iran in exchange for money, some of which they sent secretly to support an anti-communist group in Nicaragua, called the Contras. This violated a US law that prohibited US support for the group.
An investigation from the Attorney General followed, but – unlike several members of his administration – Reagan was never charged with any crime.
4. Grover Cleveland and Maria Halpin
The race for the 1884 presidency was between Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland and Republican James Blaine.
In stark contrast to Blaine, Cleveland maintained a squeaky-clean image. Yet this was called into question when stories emerged that he’d had a child out of wedlock with a widow named Maria Halpin. Apparently, he’d sent the child to an orphanage and Halpin to a mental institution.
Republicans fell upon the story with relish, using it as a rallying cry against Cleveland’s character throughout the campaign. Ultimately, he won anyway.
5. Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne
On July 18, 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy was driving a car with a 28-year-old campaign worker called Mary Jo Kopechne in the passenger seat. Alas, disaster struck when he drove off a narrow bridge to Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts.
Kennedy survived, but Kopechne drowned.
Her death (and the scandal surrounding it) haunted Kennedy for the remainder of his life and political career. While he was re-elected to the U.S. Senate, his bid for the presidency in 1980 ended in failure.
Can You Name Any Others?
It goes without saying that this list only scratches the surface of political scandals that have rocked America over the years. Do any other scandals stand out?
Which one gets your vote as the most serious? Drop a comment with your thoughts.
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