Sexual Misconduct a Serious Problem for Elected Officials
When elected officials make the news in a bad way, sexual or financial misconduct usually turns out to be the problem. Following former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation announcement, revolving around tweeted explicit photos, Americans were polled regarding their views on sexual and financial misconduct among elected officials. The survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, was released nearly two weeks ago, coincidentally, amidst a new Congressional Ethics Panel investigation of sexual harassment by Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida.
According to the survey, the percentages of Americans who regard the following offenses as very or extremely serious are as follows:
• Sending sexually explicit messages to someone other than one’s spouse (67%)
• Having sex with a prostitute (66%)
• Cheating on a spouse by a male elected official (72%)
• Cheating on a spouse by a female elected official (69%)
An interesting note about the first two bullets is that the percentages are almost identical. This suggests that the majority of Americans do not make a distinction between virtual sexual misconduct and physical sexual misconduct. Actually, I find it hard to believe that so many Americans see it that way. On the other hand, I welcome that suggestion because when a man or woman sends sexually explicit messages and photos to someone other than his or her spouse, it is certainly an act of infidelity, and unless better judgment prevails to stop it, worse behavior will follow.
We don’t require a vow of sainthood from our elected officials. They are fallible just as everyone else is. But according to the survey, sixty-one percent of Americans say that elected officials should be held to higher moral standards than people in other professions. Those who desire public office do well to take heed. It does not matter how capable elected officials may be in performing their duties, and even though their moral standards are not exactly trumpeted during their political campaign, moral conduct does go with the territory.
When Weiner’s alleged tweets became national news, he first denied the allegations and vowed to not resign. He really thought he could swim against the tide. In the end, it was no contest—he had to resign. As for the survey, 60 percent of women and 52 percent of men say that an elected official should resign if he or she sends sexually explicit messages to someone who is not his or her spouse. So, political office, anyone?