17 Gay Sex Scandals That Rocked American Politics

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The lure of power spawned many a sex scandal in Washington, D.C., and the forces of homophobia only amplify the consequence when gay encounters make headlines. Many a gay sex scandal reset the course of American history and transformed the way national leaders will be remembered for time immemorial. Until some sudden revelation exposes a member of the Trump administration for utter hypocrisy (please let it be Mike Pence!), these scandals stand as some of the most important to shake the nation.

01 Larry Craig
Larry Craig’s Wide Stance
A restroom stall at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport known by authorities as a popular spot for gay trysts saw its most notorious occupant ever on June 11, 2007. U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer and subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge. But only after Roll Call broke the story did the public hear about the charge. Craig said he’d been profiled, and that when his foot tapped the officer’s foot in an adjoining stall, it was only because of his “wide stance.” The rest of Craig’s political career swirled slowly down the drain, with the senator saying he would not resign if his conviction was overturned (which it wasn’t), then serving out his final days in office an embarrassed pariah. Plus his emphatic declaration he had “never been gay” prompted men claiming to be his ex-lovers to speak out to the press.
02 Hoover Tolson
J. Edgar Hoover’s Double Life
J. Edgar Hoover, who headed the FBI from 1935 until his death in 1972, earned the ire of countless politicians and activists over his lengthy tenure. Perhaps that helps fuel continued rumors about his sex life, some dubious and others sound. In the Anthony Summers-penned biography Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, a witness says Hoover cross-dressed at parties in the 1950s, though such allegations may stem from strained personal relationships and grudges in need of settling. More interesting, though, was Hoover’s longtime relationship with deputy Clyde Tolson, who would eat meals twice daily and go on vacations with his boss. The two never publicly acknowledged a sexual relationship, but the closeness earns scrutiny even today, especially with Hoover’s history of antagonizing gay people, but the FBI maintains still that there was no evidence Hoover was gay.
03 Foley
Mark Foley Gets in Too Deep
How much trouble did U.S. Rep. Mark Foley cause when it came out that he’d sent salacious texts to male interns? “Get a ruler and measure it,” read one of the texts leaked to ABC News. The scandal broke out weeks before the midterm election in 2006, forcing the congressman to withdraw from a race he’d previously been favored to win. But the fallout wasn’t contained to his Florida district. Revelations that then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had been notified of Foley’s misconduct months before the story broke but chose to cover the matter up ended the reign of the longest-serving Republican speaker in history. Foley ultimately was cleared of criminal charges, but the political damage was done, with Republicans losing control of the House in 2006.
05 Jhhammond Wikipedia
Sodomy in the 19th Century
James Henry Hammond would become one of the most powerful men in the antebellum South, but his own lusts would mark his career with scandal. In addition to his having affairs with slaves and his nieces, letters to college pal Thomas Jefferson Withers would also reveal he’d made use of that “fleshen pole” as well  Yet, he would represent South Carolina in the U.S. House, become governor, and eventually, after suffering fallout from one of many public ordeals stemming from his pansexual libido, be elected to the U.S. Senate.
05 Buchannan King
A President and a King
The relationship between James Buchanan (above left) and William Rufus King, who lived together when the men served in the Senate, would leave both politicians surrounded by gossip. Political foe President Andrew Jackson, a hero to sitting President Donald Trump, would belittle the two as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.” Nevertheless, King would go on to be vice president (though very briefly before his death) to President Franklin Pierce and Buchanan would become the nation’s only bachelor president (though history remembers him as quite likely the worst of all time for his deference to slaveholding states). Some historians consider the men to be the first gay president and vice president.
08 Walter Jenkins
BJ Brings Down LBJ Honcho
Walter Jenkins served as President Lyndon Johnson’s chief of staff, and by many accounts was key to bringing the former Texas senator into his historic position of power. So it sent shockwaves in the White House when Jenkins got arrested for oral sex with another man in a YMCA restroom. Jenkins resigned within the week. Famed newsman and onetime LBJ aide Bill Moyers would later tell Out magazine, “No man ever negotiated the shark-infested waters of the Potomac with more decency or charity or came out on the other side with his integrity less shaken” than Jenkins.
Ap David I. Walsh
Visit to the Wrong Brothel?
Bad enough that Massachusetts Sen. David I. Walsh would be caught up in a sting of a male bordello in New York in 1942. But the New York Post reported that the politician in fact was paying for gay sex in an establishment run by Nazi foreign agents. President Franklin Roosevelt even suggested to Sen. Alben Barkley that the Army handle such scandal by offering an officer the tools for suicide, according to Charles Kaiser’s The Gay Metropolis. Of course, the White House and Walsh had differed sharply on engaging in World War II, and Walsh said the entire story had been fabricated by political opponents, citing a report by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI that found no evidence of his involvement. But none of this prevented his eventual political defeat in 1946 by Henry Cabot Lodge.
Fred Richmond Wiki
Fred Richmond Says He's Sorry
New York Congressman Fred Richmond ended up in handcuffs after soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy in 1978 but avoided charges after publicly apologizing and agreeing to counseling. But the incident would be just one mark on a scandal-plagued career and he would eventually resign due to tax evasion charges.
Ap Studds
Outed by Scandal
It would be nice if the first out congressman to serve in Washington’s halls of power in fact made his own decision to make his homosexuality known to the world. But no, it was a decade-old affair with a then-17-year-old congressional page that forced Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds out of the closet. Amid an investigation that also revealed Illinois Rep. Dan Crane had had an affair with a female page, Studds had to publicly acknowledge his gay sexuality. But while Crane’s political career was ended by the events, Studds went on to win reelection. He would go on to be an outspoken House member supporting same-sex marriage and other gay rights long before public opinion swung in a direction helpful to LGBT causes.
Ap Jon Hinson
From Social Conservative to Out, Poz Activist
Republican Congressman Jon Hinson started his career as a young pol representing a socially conservative area of Mississippi. Somehow, he endured the revelation he’d been one of the few survivors of the 1977 Cinema Follies fire in Washington, but when he got caught in a compromising situation in a Capitol Hill restroom, he ended up charged with oral sodomy and resigned his seat in the House. Hinson didn’t return to Mississippi, though. Instead, he became an outspoken gay rights activist. He remained in the Washington, D.C., area until his death from an AIDS-related respiratory illness in 1995 at age 53.
Ap Jim Mcgreevey
Threesome’s Company in Jersey
New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey stunned the political world in 2004 when he announced he was gay and had been cheating on his wife with a man. The disclosure, which also prompted McGreevey to resign, was allegedly instigated by a blackmail threat from lover Golan Cipel. In addition to ending McGreevey’s tenure in the governor’s mansion, it also precipitated a messy divorce from his second wife, with whom McGreevey claimed he had engaged in threesomes with her and a male campaign aide, something she denied.
Ap Robert Bauman
Fabulously Conservative
In the late 1970s, Maryland Rep. Robert Bauman was considered one of the most conservative members the U.S. House. Then in 1980 the married father of four was arrested for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old male stripper he’d met at the Chesapeake House, a D.C. gay bar. He ended up losing reelection a few weeks after pleading no contest to charges in federal court. The Washington Blade interviewed him three decades later when he was out and living in Wilton Manors, Fla.
Ap Kirby Dick
Outraged! Debut
When filmmaker Kirby Dick (pictured) debuted documentary Outraged! at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009, it sent ripples across the political world for identifying several allegedly closeted politicians as gay. In the wake of the Larry Craig scandal (see earlier in this list), Dick suggested that politicians who were in a position to vote against gay rights despite being gay themselves deserved special scrutiny and scorn. Many of the politicians in the film have consistently denied rumors they are gay, but the film ensures that discussion continues.
Ap Rep. Ed Schrock
Wrong Number?
Virginia Rep. Ed Schrock developed a reputation as a stalwart conservative, that is until tapes emerged of the anti-LGBT congressman allegedly calling sex lines to solicit other men. He dropped out of the running for reelection in 2004, quite a fall from grace four years after being elected president of the 2000 class of freshmen representatives.
Ap Ted Haggard
Falling From the Bully Pulpit
Ted Haggard wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill religious leader exposed as a hypocrite when a gay sex scandal brought him down in 2006. Leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and a close political ally of George W. Bush, the man had practically made a career of rallying churchgoers around anti-LGBT political causes, fighting against same-sex marriage and labeling gay sex as an act condemned by God. So when multiple men came forward with stories about encounters with the pastor, it set Washington on fire (metaphorically, and with a lack of brimstone). He would later become the face of a more accepting religious congregation at St. James Church, but he has less political sway these days.
Ap Barney Frank
The Brothel in Barney’s Basement
Frank-ophiles will always revere retired Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank as an out and proud supporter of LGBT rights and one of the nation’s leading advocates of income equality. His critics, though, will never let him live down his relationship with Steven Gobie, a hustler who moved into Frank’s home and continued to sell his services from the residence. Frank has always maintained he knew nothing of the continued prostitution services, but he ranks getting involved with Gobie as one of the great mistakes of his career. He was once seen by Tip O’Neill as a potential successor as speaker of the House, but this scandal’s a big reason there was never a Sen. Barney Frank.
Ap Eric Massa
Eric Massa
It didn’t take long after New York Rep. Eric Massa arrived in Washington before he started making advances on male members of his staff, employees would tell The Washington Post. In addition to inappropriate touching, he’d invited several on camping trips. Somehow this all made Massa fall out of favor with House leadership. Then, he appeared on Glenn Beck’s show on Fox to explain his rapid resignation from Congress. While Beck thought the pair would talk about the Democrat’s opposition to Obamacare, conversation drifted to groping and tickling male staffers — as well as a seemingly unfounded story about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel confronting Massa in a shower. The whole thing was enough to make Beck apologize to viewers for wasting their time.

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