It seems like there is a new scandal to wrestle our attention from other pressing issues almost every day. Penn State’s athletic program seems to be in shambles, and now Syracuse has their own sex crime alleged in their basketball program. Schools like Ohio State and USC are probably thankful that they were only found guilty of cheating, and not sexually charged scandals.
Then Monday morning I heard that a Green Bay Packer linebacker spent some time in the hooskow for some sort of physical assault. Various Badger football and hockey players have been accused in the past, and I honestly didn’t follow those cases to their conclusions to see what was true and what was simply accusations.
Back during the years when the Packers weren’t winning championships, both James Lofton and Eddie Lee Ivory were accused of sexual assault. Lofton is doing television for some network now, and I think he’s in the hall of fame. Marv Albert, a famous sports announcer, got caught in his own sexual scandal years ago, but he’s still on the air.
We hear the news on these things, but not always the end of the story. Scandals are usually on page one, but charges being dropped end up on page 24, if they’re printed at all. That’s part of the problem with these things. Did Justin Bieber father a child, or did someone accuse him of it for financial benefit? How will we know? And, is it any of our business?
Sadly, some scandals, true or not, take on a life of their own. The infamous story of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich asking his wife for a divorce on her death bed sounds pretty heartless. But, in reality Mrs. Gingrich asked for the meeting to discuss their relationship, and not only that, she hasn’t been in her deathbed yet, since she has recovered from that sickness and is still alive and kicking.
Herman Cain has been the target of many accusations recently, and some or all of them may be real. But what if they aren’t? Black conservatives have pretty consistently been the subject of such accusations. John Edwards, on the other hand, was given a pass on his indiscretion until after the primary was over. And his wife really was dying. Jessie Jackson not only had a child from an affair, but was paying off the woman with funds raised under the guise of helping those less fortunate. Likewise Arnold Schwartzenager, who is off to star in movies now that he’s not governor any more, impregnated his housekeeper, and bought her her own little house.
President Clinton lied under oath about one of his scandals, but was given a pass on the others including an accusation of rape which many believe to be true to this day. And yet we view him as a charming elder statesman now. Justice Thomas was accused of transgressions that he denied, and 20 years later he still carries the burden with him. Teddy and Jack Kennedy were both serial womanizers throughout their marriages, but they are revered.
I guess the truth of the matter is that nobody is perfect, and people who have the makeup to excel at sports or politics or business at a high level sometimes have the unsavory characteristics that lead them to scandalous behavior.
But in addition to that, people who are in the public eye might as well wear bulls eyes on their backs, because charges – true of false – can do a lot to slow down someone’s career. A radio commentator once said that guilt or innocence are less important to some people than the seriousness of the charge. And, there’s little risk to making those charges against a public figure, which is why I think I’ll live the rest of my life as a very non-public figure.