A tale of two sex scandals
A tale of two sex scandals
by Chris Crain - SGN Contributing Writer

It was a rare case of domino sex scandals. Not since Bill Clinton's infidelity brought down GOP adulterers Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston have we seen one politician's sexcapades set in motion such a chain of subsequent scandals. That's what happened last week, after squeaky clean New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer held two press conferences, wife Silda by his side, to admit patronizing high-end call girls.

The cable news chat shows went predictably crazy, probing every conceivable angle. There to capitalize on the media spotlight was Dina Matos McGreevey, estranged wife of former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, who back in October 2004 also held a press conference, wife by his side, to announce he is "a Gay American" and had been romantically involved with a male staffer.

It's hard to begrudge Dina a few more clicks on her 15 minutes of fame, considering the scope of her public and private humiliation. But Dina gave notice that she wasn't back on the air simply to pitch Silent Partner, her memoir tell-all (actually tell-some, as it turns out).

With bitterness lingering just below the surface, she repeatedly compared the two Democratic governors and their (im)moral equivalence, and portrayed herself as a sister-in-suffering with Silda, New York's jilted first lady.

As it turns out, neither comparison really fits. Whatever you think about Jim McGreevey's moral culpability - he of the towering ego, unchecked ambition and heartless political rationalizations - he faced a much more complex challenge than did Eliot Spitzer. The latter just needed to think with the big head and not the little one.

McGreevey was struggling with his sexual orientation and like many of his generation had learned all too well how to compartmentalize his emotions from his sexuality. Yes, he lacked the courage to come clean until forced to, but it was a failure to rise to the occasion not an occasion of failure.

Now it turns out that the victimized wife analogy doesn't fit the McGreeveys either. While we don't know - and I hope we never learn - the details of the Spitzers' marital relationship, the McGreeveys have eagerly spilled their beans in competing books and a never-ending divorce proceeding that has lasted even longer than their marriage

However entitled, Dina's turn on the Spitzer talk show circuit is what apparently turned the stomach of Ted Pedersen, the luv guv's former "body man," as politicians' drivers are called. The young and handsome Rutgers grad went public with graphic stories about regular "threesomes" he said he had with the McGreeveys during their courtship, and even while they were engaged.

Pedersen says the threesomes, dubbed "Friday Night Specials" by the trio because they usually followed dinner at TGI Friday's, were aimed at revving up both McGreeveys for each other.

"I wanted to get this out now because it was so offensive to me that she goes on television playing the victim," Pedersen said. "She's trying to make this a payday for herself. She should have told the truth about the three of us."

But even if we can't compare husbands or wives, there is one important analogy between the Spitzers and the McGreeveys that does stand up to scrutiny: Before their respective sex scandals, both these Democratic governors generally favored Gay rights legislation and recognition for same-sex couples. McGreevey had signed a domestic partnership law, and Spitzer introduced Gay marriage legislation.

Despite a lot of cluckery about the hypocrisy of their marital misconduct, almost no one cited their personal disregard for the institution of marriage as evidence that the Gay relationship recognition they supported itself amounted to a similar disregard for marriage.

That's a marked contrast from how we Gays wield the hypocrisy argument to challenge the anti-Gay record of conservative adulterers like Larry Craig or Newt Gingrich - not to mention Bob Barr, who was on his third wife by the time he introduced the Defense of Marriage Act, subsequently signed into law by Bill Clinton, Hillary's saintly husband.

If anything, it's a bigger stretch to attack opposition to Gay marriage from hypocritical philanderers than it is to challenge Gay marriage support from adulterers with no regard for traditional marital values. Consistency is always more convincing than inconsistency.

All in all, we'd be better off leaving politician's sex lives out of the equation entirely, even when we might score a few cheap points, since ultimately we our right to marry shouldn't depend upon the percentage of conservative opponents and progressive friends of Gay marriage who cheat on their own spouses.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade and five other Gay publications and now edits GayNewsWatch.com. He can be reached via his blog at www.citizencrain.com