Top 10 Scandals of 2008
1. Eliot Spitzer Resigns Post-Hooker
One minute he was the hard-charging New York governor whose political future seemed limitless. The next he was “Client #9,” a late-night host’s punch line. In March, in the wake of revelations that Spitzer, 49, had met with a $1,000-an-hour call girl named Ashley Alexandra Dupré and patronized a high-priced prostitution ring multiple times, the Democrat announced that he would resign his post as governor. “I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people’s work,” Spitzer said at a news conference in New York City, with his stricken-looking wife, Silda, by his side. Months later Spitzer was working in his father’s real estate firm and Dupré was telling People magazine, “I think he’s been punished enough.” To his wife, Dupré said, “I’m sorry for your pain.”
2. AIG’s post-bailout spa retreat
In September, a week after American International Group received an $85 billion bailout from the federal government — ostensibly to rescue the insurance company from financial ruin — 70 of its top performers enjoyed a lavish, weeklong retreat at the Tuscan-inspired St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif. The trip, which cost more than $400,000, featured banquets, golf outings and spa treatments. Less than 24 hours after the news of the junket broke, the Federal Reserve announced it had agreed to give AIG an additional loan of up to $37.8 billion. A few weeks later, in a similarly tone-deaf move, the heads of Detroit’s Big Three auto makers flew private jets to Washington to beg Congress for money.
3. John Edwards’ extramarital affair
It’s hard to think of a better way to torpedo your political future than to cheat on your well-liked wife of 31 years while she is in remission from breast cancer and you’re in the middle of a presidential campaign. In August, after months of denying allegations of adultery and a love child published in The National Enquirer, the former North Carolina Senator admitted to Bob Woodruff of ABC News that he had an affair with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign worker, in 2006. Edwards said the affair ended before Hunter became pregnant with a daughter, and he offered to take a paternity test, which Hunter declined.
4. Miley Cyrus’ Vanity Fair photos
When the star of Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana appeared wrapped in a bed sheet with her bare back exposed in the June issue of Vanity Fair, some parents of Cyrus’ tween fans were outraged. A Disney spokesperson described the sexy photo spread as “a situation [that] was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.” The strong reaction to the image, taken by Annie Leibovitz, led Cyrus to release an apology, saying, “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.” When asked in November about the Cyrus debacle, Leibovitz told TIME: “The Miley picture was a beautiful, strong, simple picture. I think it’s actually sort of innocent on some level. She loved taking that picture, and she was ready to take that picture. It’s just that her audience wasn’t ready. I think that if there was any mistake made, it’s probably that she shouldn’t have posed for Vanity Fair.”
5. Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe
Selected as John McCain’s running mate partly for her folksiness, Palin and her no-frills hockey-mom image took a hit when news broke that the Alaska governor cum vice-presidential candidate was wearing clothes that cost more than a 3-bedroom house in Wasilla. Campaign finance reports released in October showed that the Republican National Committee spent $75,062 at Neiman Marcus and $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue in September to outfit Palin and her family in designer duds. The McCain campaign said the clothes would be donated to charity after the election. When Palin made a post-election speech to Republican governors, she seemed to have gotten over the fuss. “I had a baby,” she updated the audience on what she’d been doing since last year’s meeting. “I did some traveling; I very briefly expanded my wardrobe.”
6. Teen pregnancies in Gloucester
When 17 Gloucester High School students got pregnant during the school year that ended in June — more than four times the number of pregnancies the Massachusetts school had tallied the year before — principal Joseph Sullivan told TIME the spike was the result of a pact among a group of girls to get pregnant together. But the girls never came forward to tell their side of the story. And Gloucester mayor Carolyn Kirk said she and other officials were unable to confirm the existence of “a blood-oath bond” to get pregnant. The controversy led to Sullivan’s resignation and to a policy change at the school: condoms and birth control pills, unavailable at the school health clinic prior to the uproar, can be now be distributed to students confidentially as long as their parents don’t object ahead of time.
7. Ted Stevens’ felony convictions
The Alaska Senator’s home improvements proved a lot more costly than any contractors’ estimate. In a verdict that came just eight days before election day, a federal jury found Stevens, 85, guilty of accepting and concealing tens of thousands of dollars in free home renovations and other gifts from an oil field services company. The longest-serving Republican in the Senate, he attempted to become the first convicted felon to win election to the Senate. Ultimately, he lost to Democrat Mark Begich by less than 4,000 votes. Stevens, who was once named Alaskan of the century, said he would not ask President George W. Bush to pardon his seven felony convictions.
8. Max Mosley’s sex romp
News of the World, a British tabloid, released video of Mosley, the head of European grand prix motor racing, engaged in sado-masochistic sex acts with five prostitutes. Beyond the libertinism of the video, the paper’s suggestion that the role-playing had Nazi undertones led to demands for Mosley’s resignation as president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the organization that oversees Formula One racing. Mosley, whose father was a fascist politician, admitted “the embarrassment the revelations caused,” but said that there was no Nazi theme. In July, the 68-year-old won a lawsuit against the tabloid for invasion of privacy. “I see no genuine basis at all for the suggestion that the participants mocked the victims of the Holocaust,” the judge said, adding that the “bondage, beating and domination” that did take place was “typical of S&M behavior.” Mosley’s term as FIA president expires in October 2009.
9. Former Detroit mayor jailed
In 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick became Detroit’s youngest mayor at the age of 31. This year the former middle school teacher became Detroit’s first mayor charged with a felony while in office. Kilpatrick’s downfall began in 2007, when he and former aide Christine Beatty testified in a whistle-blower trial that they did not have an affair. In January The Detroit Free Press published excerpts from text messages sent to and from Beatty’s city-provided pager, including one Kilpatrick sent to Beatty in 2002 that read, “I’m madly in love with you.” In September, Kilpatrick, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and agreed to serve four months in jail. But in announcing his resignation, Kilpatrick was resolute, saying, “I want to tell you, Detroit, that you done set me up for a comeback.”
10. Lip-syncing in Beijing
In official Chinese ceremonies, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get — and this summer’s Olympics was no exception. Lin Miaoke, the cute-as-a-button 9-year-old, appeared to sing “Ode to the Motherland” as China’s flag was carried into Beijing’s National Stadium. But the voice the audience heard belonged to another girl, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was deemed not adorable enough to carry the show. “The reason was for the national interest,” explained Chen Qigang, the ceremony’s musical director. “The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.” Peiyi was quoted as saying she was honored to have had a role in the opening ceremony. It is unclear if Miaoke knew she was lip-syncing.