Don’t look now, but 2011 is rapidly coming to a close.
Historians will remember it as a year of economic chaos, of tragic
natural disasters worldwide, of the violent deaths of Islamic
terrorist leaders, of revolution for better for worse in the Middle
East, of the passings of Andy Rooney, Al Davis, Steve Jobs, Betty
Ford, Sidney Lumet, Elizabeth Taylor.
It will be recalled as the year of grassroots political muscle,
witness the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements.
It was the year wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords showed the
world the meaning of courage and tenacity. And the year that the rest
of our elected officials showed a lack of same.
But above all else, 2011 was the Year of Sexual Scandal. Consider:
--- Penn State, whose football program under Joe Paterno has been a
bedrock of integrity for some 46 years, appears to have had a dirty
little secret. Jerry Sandusky, the team’s defensive coordinator for
40 years, is arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of
young boys over a period of 15 years and the school is accused of
covering up the alleged crimes. In the wake of the scandal, Paterno,
who has more wins than any other coach in history, and college
president Graham Spanier are fired. Athletic director Tim Curley and
school vice president Gary Schultz are charged with failing to report
suspected child-sexual abuse by Sandusky and committing perjury in
their related grand jury testimony.
---Herman Cain, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential
nomination, is accused by several women of sexual harassment while he
was president of the National Restaurant Association, charges that he
denies. But damage has been done and the accusations appear to have
hurt his candidacy, according to polls.
---Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilder turned actor turned governor,
admits to fathering a child with the family housekeeper. He thus
becomes termed out as governor and husband in the same year.
---Anthony Weiner, a New York congressman, is exposed, so to speak,
for sending a a sexually suggestive photograph of himself via his
public Twitter account to an adult woman. After denying he had posted
the image, Weiner admits he had "exchanged messages and photos of an
explicit nature with about six women over the last three years". He
then resigns from Congress.
---David Wu, an Oregon Congressman, resigns his office following
allegations he engaged in “aggressive and unwanted” sexual behavior
with a young woman who is the daughter of a longtime friend and
---Chris Lee, a New York congressman, is forced to resign his office
when it was disclosed that he has been soliciting at least one
male-to-female transsexual on Craigslist. Claiming to be a
39-year-old divorced lobbyist but using his real name, he uses a
Google Gmail account to send her a shirtless photo taken with his
---Allison Meyers, who headed a group called the Young Eagles, a GOP
program aimed at cultivating major donors under the age of 45, is
fired by the Republican National Committee for authorizing a $2,000
payment for a night out at the Voyeur, a West Hollywood club that
featured female dancers wearing bondage gear and simulating sex acts.
Throw in the cases of Domonique Straus-Kahn, managing director of the
International Monetary Fund, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel
maid (the case was later dropped) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi, charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old belly
dancer called “Ruby the Heart Stealer,” and it seems like a week
didn’t pass without some sort of tawdry revelation.
This has to be some sort of record, although I’m not sure anyone
keeps records on this sort of thing. There must have been something
in the water supply.
Two things we know for sure: (1) This kind of behavior is certainly
nothing new but (2) there’s a lot more “media” out there now with the
advent of cable news, bloggers and so-called citizen journalists.
They all have an insatiable appetite for gossip. And our politicians
and jocks and actors are serial transgressors and thus easy targets.
As a result, we’ve heard a lot this year about high-profile
narcissists who believe the rules don’t apply to them. When they get
caught with their pants down, the story is front page news. People
love to see the mighty take a tumble.
The downside of all this is that with each story, the shock value
diminishes. We have already forgiven President Clinton for the most
egregious sexual scandal in U.S. political history. He is now one of
the most popular people on earth.
Sure, people were stunned by the Penn State scandal, but not because
a coach was accused of molesting children. It was primarily because
Joe Paterno had reached deity status in the sports world.
We may grow weary of scandal. But we must not become immune to it. It
is troubling and it should remain so. We are and should remain angry
All the people mentioned above left their jobs in disgrace. Let’s see
if our would-be philanderers get the message in 2012.