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 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT