Skip to main content

Congressman a kissing hypocrite

By Peggy Drexler
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: Freshman Rep. Vance McAllister caught in video kissing congressional staffer
  • She says he ran on platform of Christian conservatism, family values. Hypocrisy will hurt him
  • She says meanwhile staffer is out of job, but McAllister not resigning
  • Drexler: A poll says voters think abuse of power worse than infidelity. McAllister guilty of both

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- When is a kiss not just a kiss? When it's a political undoing. On Monday, a Louisiana newspaper posted a video showing freshman Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister, a conservative Christian and married father of five, in an extended passionate kiss. In his government office. With someone other than his wife.

That someone, congressional staffer Melissa Hixon Peacock, also happens to be married, to a high school pal and campaign donor of McAllister's, in fact. According to payroll records, says Politico, she started working for McAllister the day after he won his seat.

Megachurch pastor resigns

Her husband, Heath Peacock, said McAllister "has wrecked my life" and that he and his wife are "headed for divorce." He also claimed that, by the way, McAllister faked his devotion to religion to win votes.

2009: Gov. Sanford: I've been unfaithful

Certainly, it wasn't the most strategic of office affairs.

Though a recent Quinnipiac poll reported that it is politicians' abuse of power, more than their (increasingly exposed) extramarital activities, that turns off voters, by hiring a family friend on the taxpayers' dime and then getting romantic with her at the office, McAllister seems to have accomplished both.

Congressman caught kissing staffer

But the bigger problem the congressman faces, and what could well lead to his downfall, is hypocrisy. People may forgive romantic indiscretions, but it can be harder to make them—or potential opponents—forget religious ones. McAllister, who had no previous political experience, ran on a platform of "faith and family," touting his 16-year marriage, five children, and pre-church Sunday breakfasts.

He described himself as a "true conservative" and called on endorsements from family members of A&E's popular and extremely socially conservative "Duck Dynasty" — the men among them known for being anti-gay and, as it happens, anti-adultery. McAllister invited Willie Robertson, the star of the show, to accompany him to the State of the Union address in January.

In at least one campaign ad, he asked voters to pray for him. Said Heath Peacock, "He broke out the religious card and he's about the most nonreligious person I know." But it apparently helped; he won.

Meanwhile, who is out of a job? Melissa Peacock. News reports say that she was "removed from the payroll" within the 24 hours after their embrace was exposed. While "there's no ethics rule that says you can't make out with your staffer," as the National Journal pointed out, House Ethics rules do require members to "conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House," and it's possible McAllister will face an ethics investigation. In 2010, House Speaker John Boehner asked Indiana Rep. Mark Souder to resign after Souder admitted an affair with a staffer in his district office.

McAllister has apologized for the indiscretion, sort of, but said he has no plans to resign. In fact, he said, he'll run for re-election next fall. That's not exactly an act of contrition; he seems more sorry he was caught than for damaging the public trust. Though certainly it takes two to tango, as they say—and we don't yet know details, including how the relationship started, or even if it has stopped — it's clear McAllister has different rules for himself than for others. And that for a guy with scant political experience, he felt plenty comfortable with using his position (and his office) for personal gain.

If he runs again, at the very least, he might want to rethink that whole "faith, family and hard work" message the next time around.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:30 PM EST, Sun December 28, 2014
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT