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“Monkey Business”

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As the American Presidential race heats up and rumors and allegations swirl,  Iconic Photos look back at a scandal from the not-so-distant-past.

Never dare the media. That was the career-ending lesson Gary Hart learnt in 1987 when he challenged the newspapers to find proof of his alleged womanizing. Back in early 1987, the former senator from Colorado was the frontrunner for the democratic presidential nomination. Although the election was still 18 months away, Hart’s position as a “New” Democrat — a fiscal conservative and social liberal –appealed to many democratic insiders, especially after the values of the “old style” New Deal Democratism were resounding rejected by Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984.

Hart, who almost was the democratic nominee in 1984, was obviously the heir apparent in 1987. Only one problem existed. The senator was plagued by his troubled 28-year marriage and rumors of infidelity. The candidate challenged the media to surveil him, and claimed that anybody who did so would “be very bored.”

However, even before his dare appeared in the New York Times, the Miami Herald already had anonymous tips regarding the senator’s affairs. On the day his editorial appeared, the Herald published a photo of a young woman leaving Hart’s residence. The woman was a 29-year-old model named Donna Rice whom the senator had first met in 1983 during a New Year’s Day party at the Aspen vacation home of rock singer Don Henley. While Hart argued that the reporters could have no knowledge of exactly when Rice arrived or why she was there, his poll ratings  suffered a major blow.

However, a coup de grace came two days later, when the Herald published a photograph of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap in Bimini. The photo which made the cover of National Enquirer was all the more hilarious for Hart’s T-shirt which had the inappropriate name of the yacht that ferried Hart and Rice to Bimini from Miami: “Monkey Business”.

A Washington Post reporter pointedly asked Hart, “Have you ever committed adultery?” Hart refused to answer the question and the Post identified yet another woman with whom Hart had had a long-standing relationship. Less than a week later, in a bitter press conference, Hart announced he was dropping out of the race. He would later re-enter the race, but his moment had passed. He continued to rail against those who had all condemned him, and wrote in his autobiography that if the press and nation would have a “small margin of tolerance” for messy relationships, then maybe we’d get better leaders.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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