Notes on a(nother) scandal

Romance on the public dime. If you’re like me, you’re angry and indignant when it’s someone from the other political party, and disappointed when it’s one of our own. Either way, it exposes a weakness, a character flaw — the allure of sex and/or love proved stronger than one’s sense of duty to the public. Great fodder for a book, amirite?

(I really should be working on something else, but this wants to be said.)

A couple of days ago, I read that Trump advisor Carl Icahn sold off $31.3 million in steel and aluminum stocks the week before Trump announced tariffs on the industry. Those tariffs caused the stock price to drop, but Icahn’s money was safe because he got out of the market ahead of time. Did I mention that Trump and Icahn talk to each other regularly? Quel surprise. I’m wondering if the Federal Trade Commission will look into that the way they looked into Martha Stewart’s sale of less than $46,000 in ImClone stocks, for which she paid more than $200,000 in fines and disgorgement, and served five months in federal prison. Of course not — Icahn will skate.

Earlier today, Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry resigned following charges of conducting a romance on the public dime. She was a staunch progressive in the South, a woman with a promising political future — now squandered. Her case is of particular interest to me because Jenny and I have settled on Nashville as our future home. In fact, we’ll be there in about three weeks looking for a place to live.

Anyway, this all got me thinking about the consequences of political sex scandals. Without defending Mayor Barry’s conduct, it’s still hard not to notice the disparity in how her case was handled:

President Bill Clinton

~ Clinton got blowjobs from a WH intern in the Oval Office; lied about it to Independent Counsel.

~ No criminal charges resulted, though the US House brought impeachment charges for perjury and obstruction of justice; Clinton was acquitted on both charges despite obvious perjury and credible evidence he’d coached secretary Betty Currie to repeat his denials.

~ Finished his term as president amid soaring approval ratings.

~ Now considered a Democratic “statesman.”

SC Governor Mark Sanford

~ Sanford went off the grid for 6 days to visit his mistress in Argentina, having told his staff he’d be hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was outed by reporters who met his flight from Buenos Aires at the airport in Atlanta.

~ After denying abuses of public money, he eventually reimbursed taxpayers for expenses incurred the previous year during another trip to Argentina. (This on top of a $74,000 fine and $66,000 restitution for other luxury travel that was prohibited by SC law.)

~ Threatened with impeachment, he refused to resign. After several months of saber-rattling, the SC House voted to end impeachment proceedings. They agreed to a “censure,” which basically means they scolded him.

~ Allowed to finish his term as governor; elected to the US House of Representatives 3 years later.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry

~ Barry conducted an affair with her head of security, which included out of town travel together.

~ She was criminally charged over misuse of public funds, as was her security head, who collected overtime pay for the time they spent frolicking.

~ Pleaded guilty to felony theft; sentenced to 3 years probation; repayment of $11,000.

~ Resigned.


As I said, it’s not really possible to defend the Mayor’s conduct, or Martha Stewart’s for that matter. It does however shine a bright light on how we continually allow men to get away with crimes while holding women to a standard of perfection.

One of the reasons I write lesbian romance is to reinforce the positive societal value of two women living happily ever after. Stories — whether told in books, plays, film or through other arts — are how we instill cultural norms. It’s critical that women’s voices, and lesbian voices, are loud and strong when it comes to defining what is fair, what is just.

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