Former Clinton Aide Stephanopoulos: Dems Have a Harder Time Surviving Sex Scandals

Former Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos appeared on Thursday's Good Morning America to bizarrely assert that Democrats have a harder times surviving sex scandals than Republicans. While discussing South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, he breathlessly claimed, "We've never seen anything like this before" and never mentioned his former boss, Bill Clinton, who escaped impeachment conviction after being caught in a sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky.

GMA co-host Diane Sawyer informed viewers that Stephanopoulos had been "looking back at this roll call of apologies for indiscretions, Republicans and Democrats." The "This Week" host spun, "Democrats have had a harder time holding on to office after scandals, recently, than Republicans." Stephanopoulos also appeared on Wednesday night's "World News" and told anchor Charlie Gibson virtually the same thing. And, once again, he failed to cite Bill Clinton, certainly one of the most famous examples of a Democrat retaining office after a sex scandal.

On that program, after Gibson mentioned a number of politicians who have been involved with "personal indiscretions," Stephanopoulos retorted, "But one remarkable fact, Charlie, you look at the breakdown, on the Democratic side, Spitzer, McGreevey, you add the Detroit Mayor, Kilpatrick, all of the politicians were forced out of office. Everyone of the Republicans you just mentioned held on."

Of course, there are some obvious differences in the cases of people like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, ex-New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and Republicans such as Senator John Ensign. For example, Spitzer used campaign funds to stay in hotels where he met with prostitutes. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick committed numerous illegal acts and ultimately received a 120 day prison term for a sex scandal that also included felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The fact that Stephanopoulos ignored the elephant in the room, the example of his former boss at the White House, is astounding. That he repeated, on two different program, such a poorly conceived comparison, indicates an attempt to set up talking points and a tone of equivalence between the situations.

(Thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for transcription assistance.)

A transcript of the June 25 GMA:

7:09

TOM DAVIS: And so, we turn now for the political bottom line to chief Washington correspondent, anchor of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. George, we just heard State Senator Tom Davis, chief of staff, say, if he's sincere in his repentance, the people of South Carolina will forgive him. He shouldn't step down.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll see if the people of South Carolina agree and if the rest of the political establishment in South Carolina agrees. This- We've never seen anything like this before, Diane. The press conference yesterday. The raw emotion. The amount of information the Governor gave out was simply incredible. And we don't really know how this is going to go yet. Here's what we know right now. The Governor said yesterday, he wouldn't resign. At least he didn't address that right now. So far, the other top Republicans in the state have had very tough statements for the Governor. They've raised the kind of questions that Robin was just raising in that interview with Tom Davis. What about the taxpayer money? Did he leave the state in a lurch by not telling anybody where he was going? By letting his staff lie about it? But, they haven't gone to the step of calling on him to resign. What kind of a stance will his wife, Jenny, take, in the coming days. She put out, yesterday, that she basically separated from him two weeks ago. That he should have a chance to resurrect the marriage. Didn't say how much time she would give him. And then, finally, the public. Tom Davis alluded to all that. Governor Sanford wasn't all that popular coming into this scandal. We'll see what the capacity for forgiveness of the people of South Carolina is.

SAWYER: I know you've been looking back at this roll call of apologies for indiscretions, Republicans and Democrats. What do you learn from them?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the recent history is really something, Diane. Democrats have had a harder time holding on to office after scandals, recently, than Republicans. Look at New York. Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York. Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey. Kwame Kilpatrick, all forced out of office after sexual scandals, although another Los Angeles mayor, Villaraigosa, was able to survive. On the Republican side, you had Senator John Ensign just last week, of Nevada, caught up in a scandal. He didn't resign. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, caught up with a prostitute. He didn't resign. And, of course, that whole scandal over Larry Craig. He made it at least through the end of his term. So, Republicans in recent history have had a little easier time holding on to office than Democrats.

A transcript of the June 24 World News segment:

6:33pm

CHARLES GIBSON: And our chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos is joining us now. George, this is becoming somewhat common place these days. Politicians, leading politicians talking about infidelities. But I must admit looking at that news conference, I've never seen anything like that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, me neither, Charlie. No way. You are used to seeing politicians come out in a stoic mode, even defiant at times, usually, the spouse by their side. Not today. This was raw. This was emotional. This was confessional. And you really saw this was a man in real pain. It was a remarkable performance.

GIBSON: But personal problems aside, George, let me go to that point that Steve Osunsami raised right at the end. The problem here is, he left his state for five days and nobody knew where he was. Nobody was in charge of the ship. Can he survive this?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the big question. No one in the state, no major politician in the state has yet called for his resignation, but there are already very tough statements from the Republican Speaker of the House, the Republican leader in the Senate, raising exactly the questions you talked about right there. He left the state, didn't tell people where he was. Let his staff lie about it. Didn't delegate authority. The pressure could build for him to resign, on those grounds, and one former Republican chairman of the state has said the calls are likely to come quickly.

GIBSON: Very quickly, George, we've had a lot of governors and senators with these kinds of problems, personal indiscretions. Governors Spitzer, McGreevey, Blagojevich of Illinois, now Sanford, and senators, Craig, Vitter, and Ensign. There's a lot of them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy there sure are. But one remarkable fact, Charlie, you look at the breakdown, on the Democratic side, Spitzer, McGreevey, you add the Detroit Mayor, Kilpatrick, all of the politicians were forced out of office. Everyone of the Republicans you just mentioned held on.

GIBSON: Hmm. All right, George Stephanopoulos from here in Washington.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org