Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications.
HIDE CAPTION
Anthony Weiner
Eliot Spitzer
Mark Sanford
Bill Clinton
Newt Gingrich
Gary Hart
Dennis Kucinich
David Vitter
Marion Barry
Richard Nixon
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Disgraced politicians can write a book, go on TV, run for office again
  • Obeidallah: Fallen politicians never die, just like zombies
  • Just think of Bob Ney, Eliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, Rod Blagojevich, Mark Sanford, he says
  • Obeidallah: Are we so forgiving because we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top 3 stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Ronald Reagan once joked, "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book."

Today, that joke would have to be updated to add that not only can you write a book, but you can also be on reality TV show, host cable news programs, run for office again and possibly even win.

Disgraced politicians never die. They're like Jason from the "Friday the 13th" movies -- you just can't kill them. They keep coming at you like the political version of zombies.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Sure, some fallen politicians still write books about their "adventures."

Former Ohio congressman Bob Ney recently made the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote his new memoir. Ney, who resigned in 2006, served more than a year in prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



But books are nothing compared to the other ways sullied politicians can profit off of their newly found infamy.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- who resigned because he was caught frequenting prostitutes -- went on to host not one, but two different shows on cable TV. The first one was on CNN, and the second one was on Current TV.

CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls. CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls.
Public figures, private missteps
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
Photos: Public figures, private missteps Photos: Public figures, private missteps

Then there's exploiting your scandal in the time between when you're indicted and convicted of the crime. Former Texas congressman Tom DeLay -- while under indictment and awaiting a trial date -- appeared as a contestant on the hit TV show "Dancing with the Stars." DeLay was later convicted of campaign finance violations and money laundering.

But the guy who set the bar high for all disgraced politicians is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

After being removed from office by the state legislature and while under indictment, Blagojevich wrote a book about his scandal, went on "The Daily Show" and "Letterman" and was a contestant on Season 9 of Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice." Blagojevich even appeared at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (a comic book convention), where he charged $50 for autographs and $80 for a photo with him. He was subsequently convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Among politicians who don't end up in jail, some try hard to become elected officials again. They want to go back to the very place that caused their problems. It's like a recovering drug addict asking to work at a meth lab -- not a good combo.

Mark Sanford: How I learned from scandal

Just look at former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is running to fill a recently vacated Congressional seat. As a refresher, Sanford disappeared for six days in 2009 while governor. At first, Sanford's office publicly stated that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, we soon found out that he was actually in Argentina visiting the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford seeks 'redemption' in wild congressional race

Sanford later paid $74,000 to settle charges that he had misused state resources and campaign funds in conducting his affair. However, Sanford refused to resign and completed his term.

Flash forward to March 19: Sanford came in first in a crowded field of Republicans in the GOP Congressional primary. Recent polls show him with a 10-point lead over his opponent in the Republican primary runoff scheduled for April 2.

Sanford's quest for forgiveness in return to political life

And don't forget Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic Congressman from New York City. As most people, and all comedians, vividly recall, Weiner had "accidentally" tweeted photos of himself in his underwear to a young woman on Twitter. Weiner later admitted to having non-sexual but "inappropriate" relationships with various women on social media. Weiner resigned from Congress a few weeks after the scandal broke in June 2011.

What's Weiner up to now? Apparently he has figured out how to use Twitter and is at least considering a return to politics. Weiner revealed he had spent more than $100,000 on polls recently to explore possibly running for office in New York City.

What does it say about us that these disgraced politicians have success -- however fleetingly -- after their scandals? Is it because we are a forgiving lot who believe in second chances if the person has sincerely apologized and seeks redemption? Or is it because we are all infected with the reality-show mindset where we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Plenty of people don't distinguish between whether a person is famous for good or bad reasons. All that matters is if a person has made it to that semi-exclusive club of celebritydom. After that, enough people will support the person to merit securing a book deal, being cast on a reality show and maybe run for office.

Look, I'm all for redemption and second chances. But I'm also aware that just like we saw with Jason in "Friday the 13th" movies, the longer he's alive, the more damage he will do.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT