NEW YORK (PIX11) – When then-Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton, went on “60 Minutes” in early 1992—with wife, Hillary, by his side—he was seeking to salvage his presidential campaign from potential disaster. A former TV reporter and cabaret singer named Gennifer Flowers was claiming she’d had a long-time affair with Governor Clinton. Clinton called the relationship “friendly but limited.”
Bill’s charm and Hillary’s composure apparently convinced voters it was much ado about nothing. William Jefferson Clinton was elected to two terms in office and survived the Monica Lewinsky intern affair in his second term, even after the House of Representatives impeached him. The Senate acquitted him.
Just five years before Clinton saved his own campaign, Colorado U.S. Senator, Gary Hart, was unable to do the same in 1987. He had dared reporters who questioned his marital fidelity to follow him. Some did, claiming a woman was seen leaving his Washington, D.C. area home. Then, a photo surfaced of a young Miami model sitting on his lap, during a yachting excursion to the island of Bimini. Hart was wearing a white T-shirt with the logo “Monkey Business” on it. Hart left, and then re-entered, the 1988 presidential race. But his campaign faltered.
Just over twenty years after Hart’s campaign imploded, Mark Sanford, then-Governor of South Carolina, admitted in 2009 that he’d lied about his whereabouts—when he told his staff, wife, and four sons that he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The Republican governor was actually flying thousands of miles south to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to spend time with his new lover. Sanford admitted his infidelity at a press conference and decided not to run again.
Sanford left office in 2011, his wife divorced him, he got engaged to his lover, and then he ran for his old Congressional seat in South Carolina this year. Sanford won and praised God, “a God not just of second chances but of fifth, sixth, and seventh chances,” he said joyfully on election night.
Depending on the circumstances—and the voters’ frame of mind—politicians can survive sex scandals and revive their careers. In Sanford’s case, voters in his district wanted to send a message to the Obama Administration and Democrats they viewed as wasteful, government spenders.
Former North Carolina Senator and two-time presidential candidate, John Edwards, though– may be a different story.
Edwards was pounded in the press for fathering a love child with a campaign staffer, while his wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer. Edwards initially denied the baby, as he sought a second shot at the presidency. He finally admitted paternity. Then, last year in 2012, he escaped jail, when a federal judge declared a mistrial in his campaign fraud case. Prosecutors had charged Edwards with misusing a million dollars in donations to hide his pregnant mistress.
Since the mistrial, Edwards has largely stayed out of view. He recently re-activated his law license and did a speaking engagement.
The outgoing mayor of Los Angeles was re-elected, after admitting an extramarital affair in 2007—and now says he’d like to run for California governor someday.
That brings us to the granddaddy of sex scandals…one that happened after a politician left office. In 2011, former California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, admitted that he’d fathered a son with his family housekeeper, before he was elected in 2003. Schwarzenegger’s wife–and mother of his four other children, Maria Shriver– left Schwarzenegger—but she hasn’t divorced him. Ahnold, as some call him—because of his thick, Austrian accent—is now back making movies.