Anthony Weiner is resigning and so gains the dubious distinction of being the first politician to leave office because of Twitter text-capades, a scandal that literally could not have taken place even five years ago (Twitter was launched in the summer of 2006). Securing one’s place in scandal history is cold comfort at what might be the end of a once-promising political career.
But despite what some, Andrew Sullivan for example, have suggested, Weiner is not the first politician to flame out in a sexless sex scandal.
That distinction, I believe, belongs to the late lamented Jack Ryan. He was the GOP nominee to run for Senate from Illinois in 2004. With movie star good looks and a movie hero name, Ryan seemed like a creditable candidate to keep the seat in Republican hands as incumbent Peter Fitzgerald was retiring. Then the scandal hit: His ex-wife, TV star Jeri Ryan (best known as Seven of Nine, the blond Borg clad in skin tight costumes in Star Trek: Voyager) alleged in their divorce papers that he had taken her to a whips-and-chains sex club and suggested the couple give the kind of performance one does not see on broadcast television. She allegedly demurred. [Read Whispers: Weiner's Sassy Twitter Pals.]
Resistance was futile, and soon enough, Ryan’s campaign was assimilated into political scandal history.
As the Washington Post’s David Montgomery wrote at the time:
Two things make this sex scandal breathtakingly unconventional, and it is not the whips and cages:
The people in question were
No sex occurred.
This may be the first sexless sex scandal to bring down a politician. Ryan is being punished for kinky thoughts he denies thinking. Talk about the pain of unrequited love.
Readers with keen memories know the coda to the Ryan scandal, of course. When Ryan stepped aside, Illinois GOP-ers were forced to tap carpetbag candidate Alan Keyes, who lost resoundingly to an obscure state senator named Barack Obama.