March 11th, 2008
08:06 PM ET

Humiliated wives: Why do they stand there?

While the nation’s mouths are hanging open at Gov. Eliot Spitzer, every time his public apology airs I can’t take my eyes or my mind off of his poor wife, Silda Wall Spitzer. Why is it that she stood there beside her husband during his public admission yesterday afternoon? It certainly wasn’t to better herself. Gov. Spitzer’s advisors probably deemed the “stand by your man” philosophy necessary, but her presence at her husband’s press conference yesterday only truly benefited Gov. Spitzer, leaving Silda most likely irreparably humiliated. Nobody’s doing damage control in Silda’s camp. While advisors may see it as a team effort, why does that have to trump your personal pride?

Also, I wonder, when did he tell Silda? And what did she think? Gov. Spitzer became the New York Attorney General in 1999 and built his career fighting corporate corruption and investigating prostitution. In fact, in 2004 Gov. Spitzer was part of an investigation that arrested 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution.

This allegation that he repeatedly hired high-end prostitutes is a heavy blow to anyone vowing “till death do us part.”   Even if she is there for him “in sickness and in health,” did Silda have to be at the press conference?

During his apology yesterday, Gov. Spitzer said, "Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better." But the matter was anything but private, and if you read between the lines, it wasn’t even fully addressed.

But this certainly isn’t the first time a very public male figure has had his wife stand by him during a very humiliating, private matter. To list a few dutiful spouses, there’s Hillary Clinton, Dina McGreevey, Vanessa Bryant (Kobe Bryant’s wife) and Wendy Vitter (wife to Rep. David Vitter).

Dina Matos, the ex-wife of former Gov. Jim McGreevey, stood beside her husband as he announced to the world that he was gay. It makes me wonder, why did she, too, agree to appear at the press conference? In an interview with Oprah, Matos explained: "I thought about it, and I thought, well, I've stood by his side all these years. We have a daughter together, and one day she's going to hear about this or read about it, and she's going to ask me, 'Mommy, why weren't you at Daddy's side?'" she said. "So I was there for my daughter's father. And I also had nothing to hide. I had done nothing wrong."

That’s right—if you’ve done nothing wrong—why are you at the press conference? 

Gov. Spitzer said, “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."  No question about that. My Nigerian cab driver told me how he had written a note to Gov. Spitzer years ago, when Spitzer was attorney general.  “I was a nobody and his office answered me back right away.”  He told me his “heart hurt” thinking about the governor’s now-most-likely ruined career. 

But his wife, standing by his side in that awkward non-informational press conference? After her public humiliation, he said, that was just a mean thing to make her do.

-Soledad O’Brien, CNN Anchor

Filed under: Eliot Spitzer • Soledad O'Brien
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. bond

    They stand there to look meek, weak, and powerless. That's not any "real women" I know. Especially after being humiliated in front of the entire country! They need to grow a backbone.

    March 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  2. Dee

    I'm waiting for the day when one of these guys gives one of these stupid press conferences (without the wife), where he has two black eyes and ends his little speech with "and honey, if you're listening, can I please come home now?".

    March 12, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  3. Anna

    Maybe we as women should not be so quick to judge other women's marriages and what they do about them. The women who are so quick to judge need to walk a mile in other shoes. I find it unbelievable that any woman would place judgement on another for something they are not privy to. How would you like to be judged by other women on the way you deal with your marriage. To me it is like speaking poorly of another persons mother. You just do not do it!

    March 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  4. Carolyn Anderson

    I agree with Anonymous above who said

    " What disgusts me more than this woman standing by her “man” is the cnn anchors allowing sexist comments such as those made by Alan Dershowitz to pass on by"

    That is one of the reason that women have so much trouble getting their voices heard – we are always having male authority figures over shout us – regarding "their opinion".

    Silda Spitzer's decision to "Stand by her man" – was her decision. Lisa Blooms' and Soledad O'Brien's comments suggesting that she needed some female support with the message that Silda doesn't have to act as if this confession was acceptable to her may be just what she needs to finally find her voice, about her brilliant – but – two-faced husband, and stand up to him and the minions who tell her to stifle her feelings – for the sake of – what? Her children? Her marriage? Her political future? Certainly not for the sake of her self-esteem.

    Let the women in the audience register there disgust with this situation! I'm sure Silda will eventually – in her own way.

    March 12, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  5. Ann Kehe

    Why do wives put up with this disrespect? Because some women go through their whole life never being anything else but an appendage of their husband.
    I'm 58 yrs. old and I still can't believe some of the double standards that continue. Some VERY intellegent women feel that saying anything negative about their spouse is considered disrespectful. Even when it is clear the husband treats them like a child instead of an equal. Some men seem to like the family structured in a way that the wife takes the place of his mother and the women seem to fall into this sick role. Wake-up sisters ! If your his mommy he"ll be screwing someone else. I am personally repulsed and sick of watching women being used as props in any kind of setting. Bussiness or politics. Not to mention all of these talentless bimbo celebs.
    So this idiot is showing his daughters what value he has of the female gender and his trained seal of a wife let's her daughters down
    by not having a spine. I'm starting to wonder what the real percentage
    of men are who are not living some double life. You know, when their not busy destroying the word with wars and genocide., or tapping their foot in bathroom stalls. How sad is it that I have come to a point in my life that I would NEVER let my grandchildren alone with any male .
    That I would never want them in any situation regarding a priest.
    Note to women who are getting into more powerful positions...If you are just going to act like a egotistical self-centered greedy jerk than that is not doing the women's movement a damn bit of good.
    Women's qualties may be different then men (thank god) but they are the qualities that are lacking and go unrewarded in society

    March 12, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  6. Carol, Calif.

    I think the news media gets annoyed with the wives remaining silent and attending the disgraced husband's news conference because it cuts the media out of getting more dirt.

    I would assume that most women in that position would be thinking of the impact this will have on their children. It would be hard enough for kids to find out that their father is leading a double life, but having the parents split up on national TV would only make it worse.

    Just imagine if Mrs. Spitzer had not shown up for the press conference. There would be cameras following her every move (they probably are already) waiting for her to slip up and give us the headline of the day.

    It is also very insulting to her (and the others) to portray them as pathetic saps who have no other choice than to cling on to their husbands. She is obviously highly intelligent – she knows what she is doing and has her own reasons.

    Leave Mrs. Spitzer alone (and PLEASE enough with the Tammy Wynette references). She is not an elected official – she has a right to privacy and a right to handle this in her own way.


    March 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm |
  7. Marianne Pearsall

    I think women stand by their men for the simple reason that they are their man, or was.
    These women know that the end has come and the strength it takes to stand alongside the humiliated husband and public servant should be commended, not derided.
    For another woman to comment on the humiliation of the wife of Gov. Spitzer, says more about her than about Spitzer's wife.

    March 12, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  8. Karyne Whalen

    Lest we not forget the Bill Clinton scandal...didn't Hilary stand by her man?

    March 12, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  9. judi l

    I am so tired of these women "standing by their man". When are these men going to stand by their women!!! Why is Spitzer's wife leaning into him with adoring eyes, dressed in the Mother Theresa blue & white! It is ridiculous. This man has done more than "cheated". He has exposed his 3 daughters & wife to the criminal element of hookers & pimps. How about aids & any number of other diseases? All because he just can't keep it zipped up. Just once I want one of these wives to say I do not support & respect what you have done. You have dealt a selfish to your whole family, Just once!!! Why do these wives support these humiliating acts. I do not understand how any person with an ounce of self worth would support that.
    I have to add, i wanted to jump through the screen at that ignorant male lawyer on the show last night. Lisa Bloom was right on and I was thrilled to hear some one finally ask why these women support these loser men.
    I think Spitzer should have his hooker & pimp buddies have thoses adoring looks on stage with him. That's what he wants. I cannot respect any wife who would approve of such behaviors, shame on her. Her poor daughters, why can't theses idiots think of them...... just once......

    March 12, 2008 at 10:19 am |
  10. Randy Criscoe

    I want to address what the young woman on the program said about the "women" of public men standing by their men.
    Consider. The woman was not elected, her husband was. IF she has enjoyed the life and privilege of the First Lady, as this woman clearly did as seen in the photos you have show about this story, then she shouldn't run and hide when things get tough.
    And while I think we all have a right to our opinions, the young woman's stance showed to me just an incredible lack of a moral compass, something that is a serious problem in this country.
    That woman stood by her man because it was and is the RIGHT thing to do. Especially if they have children.
    As they said from the start, for better and worse.

    March 12, 2008 at 8:40 am |
  11. Pat M

    Personally I don't feel a society has the right to judge Mrs. Spritzer.
    Mr. Spritzer is guilty of the scandal, his wife is in no way responsible for his actions irregardless of what they are and should not be judged based on her reactions to the same.

    It is Mrs. Spritzer's perrogative to handle this situation as she sees fit. She is the only one who can determine what is best for her and her daughters. Therefore, our views as a collective society are meaningless and unneeded.

    Mrs. Spritzer and her daughters need respect and support at this difficult time not views of how others might handle this situation.

    It is easy when not faced with the situation to have an opinion on how it should be handled. However, it is the person that is in the situation that will have to deal with the consequences of their decisions and actions not those who can offer their views, turn off their computer, and return to life as usual.

    It begs the question as to how far we have slipped in society when being loyal to our sacred marriage vows "in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad" is seen as a weakness!

    I wish Mrs. Spritzer and her daughters all the Best. And commend Mrs. Spritzer for her courage in a very difficult time.

    March 12, 2008 at 8:35 am |
  12. John

    Marriage vows are a two way contract. Mrs. Spitzer is under no moral obligation to honor her vows after he husband has so egregiously violated his side of the contract.

    March 12, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  13. JC

    He committed the the adultery alone, he should have to stand and apologize alone and pray to god she can find it in her, as well as his daughters to forgive him. Never mind needing time to "regain his family's trust"

    March 12, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  14. William A. Jeffries

    Why do they stand there? A question by someone with no knowledge of Eliot Spitzer's life. His job? A thankless job that required him to work alone. He worked tirelessly to bring a large group of arrogant, devious Wall Street psychopaths to justice, with many more still living in fear of the Spitzer tentacles. Does anyone know the pressures to bear on Spitzer in his high profiile life, or on his family, or how his family reacted to these pressures?

    Do some research on his family life, then on the prostitution rings operating in the U.S.A.. and how widely spread they are in the hands of criminals. Then research when and why they were outlawed.

    Then got off of Spitzer's back

    March 12, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  15. Evon

    I have a girlfriend who just went through the same thing, and I am so proud that she is choosing not to put up with it. She's beautiful inside and out, intelligent, creative, courageous, etc. – the same as Mrs. Spitzer. I would love to see women stop being humilated in order to show their strength.

    Ladies – if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

    Once a cheater, always a cheater!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 11, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  16. Jezza

    Mrs. Spitzer said at her wedding "...for better or worse, until death do us part" and she obviously meant it! She made a public commitment at her wedding and she upheld that commitment standing next to him. It doesn't mean she approves, it only means she's committed to him. I applaud her for her commitment in times of trouble.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  17. VoteResponsibly8

    Wifes stand there becasue these women respect thier vows. Maybe they don't know exactly what to do. Some have children and should sit back and see what can be done for the sake of the children. Do they need to bring additional sadness to thier kids. Women with Children react different than women without children. Those that have children usually want to protect their children in their sorrow, therefore do not make changes so quickly, some stand next to their husbands becuase they are forgivign, maybe they feel they need their husbans. However no matter what they do it should be what they think its best for them and their family..No one should judge!

    March 11, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  18. lisa

    so now women in these situations are bad for sticking up for her husband ?

    Get them when they are down....

    March 11, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  19. Elizabeth

    I admire every woman who can stand up no matter what the circumstances are for their children, their mariage and their family in general.

    It is no "outsiders" business to judge.

    Look at Mrs. Clinton, she is the strongest and brightest woman in my book. She did stood alongside his man, she has a lovely doughter, and I believe as a president she would stand by all American's. I believe her perseverence and hard work would bring America's good reputation on the world and a great economy back the country. Please know, I don't believe the same about Obama. Sorry...

    About myself. I did not stand by my husband, I left him when I got convinced that he cheated on me. Do I regret my hastiness today? The answer is "YES".

    Most men and women today are the same, sex is a game. We all watch TV don't we?
    Many of those who are condamning these men and women should look at themselves first...

    God bless you Anderson. I really like your "360"

    March 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm |
  20. Nancy Thomsen

    I would have been home supporting my three daughters and having the locks changed.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  21. p walker

    The kids are the victim here!!! Mrs. spitzer is a classy lady but shame on her for standing by him when he shamed her so badly, he showed his true colors!!! shame shame on him for doing this to his beautiful family!

    March 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  22. Tricia

    I TOTALLY agreed with Soledad. Whatever decisions these women make regarding their marriages is certainly their own business, but WHY would they stand there being supportive of this kind of behavior? As for their children, what message is she sending to her daughters? It's okay?
    It's not okay. As a another mother with daughters, I found her "supportive" behavior almost as disgusting as the man she was standing next to.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  23. other tucker

    i, too, am sooooooooo sick of seeing these wives standing next to their philandering husbands and having them to stay quiet and look like they're "supportive" or having them tell the audience how they're standing by their man! give me a break!... we're in the year 2008, there's something wrong when you have to look at these poor images of wives being trotted out when they are not the perpetrators but another casualty of their husband's stupidity. i think this sharing of their husband's public humiliation is abominable and unfair, and sends a terrible message to young women. Why are these women being trotted out in the limelight when they obviously didn't share in the reckless behavior and incredibly stupid judgement to "self-destruct" and take their families down with them.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  24. carol

    Dershowitz is an old fashioned man. He has no scruples and no respect for women. There are victims in this matter. I feel sorry for Dershowitzs' wife (or should I say wives).

    March 11, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  25. Dorothy Laurent

    I would like to see one woman in these public cases stand up for herself instead of "standing by her man" particularly when he openly humilates her. What is wrong with these women, don't they have a mind of their own? Do they have any feelings? Why can't they act like a normal women and let the jerks stand there by themselves.
    Do you think she knew about it in the first place? I think maybe! They do not help the progress of women.,

    March 11, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  26. Annie Kate

    I wonder if Silda stood by him because she was in shock and just following old habits. Spitzer should have acknowledged her with a direct apology instead of totally ignoring her. I hope the family can get through this very pubic humiliation and I feel for all of them.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 11, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  27. carol

    These women that stand by their men are stupid and have no idea who they are without a man, any man. They need a man so badly that they'll take whatever is dished at them.

    These women have no self-identity nor self respect.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  28. Jeanette Hercik

    I am sorry for the Spitzers. Disagree with the woman on right now..Has she ever been in love or married to a man that she loved? Mrs. Spitzer is intelligent. Don't dismiss her heartbreak as politics or anti-feminism.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  29. Kate Rhoades

    Though it would be refreshing to see a woman take more of a stand than just a stand-by-her-man style stand when she is thrust into the public eye under such humiliating circumstances. However, it just adds to the degradation when one is belittled for not having an emotional breakdown in front of the entire country. Who knows what goes on when the cameras are turned off?

    March 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  30. p walker

    I totally agree, its a horrible thing for Mrs. Spitzer to set that example of standing by her man when she has three daughters!!!!!!!!!!! Spitzer himself is a weak, weak man, should resign from public life. I didn't stand by my man when he cheated , I had two young boys to raise by myself. Morals are very important.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  31. Rossi

    Seriously everyone really needs to mind their own business. How she chooses to deal with this problem is her business and her business alone. No one here or on CNN is the moral compass for everybody. I also very much see this as a victim-less crime. This woman was paid very well and an adult. I frankly can't believe this sort of thing is actually illegal.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  32. Elizabeth

    The wives probably do stand there because they are in shock at the moment and don't know what else to do. I have to disagree with Anderson that they should stand there to keep up the public front or for the sake of the children. It's up to the individual but the husband has obviously shown a total disregard for his wife's feelings so she certainly doesn't need to stand there if she doesn't wish to do so. What is that teaching the children?

    March 11, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  33. Robert Sokol


    My husband and I love you...truly, madly, deeply. But please! Your team's continual use of the phrase "involved in a prostitution ring" regarding the very stupid and unfortunate Spitzer situation is like saying George Bush is "involved in a systematic plan to murder Iraqis." Spitzer hired sex workers. Apparently on a regular basis. However anyone might view those acts, it's not as if he's the Heidi Fleiss or Sidney Biddle Barrows of the new millennium.

    It's just not responsible journalism. You know better. Stop it! Thank you!

    Robert Sokol
    San Francisco

    March 11, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  34. Sally Rubin

    I agree with your anchor who asserted that it's time for women to make a different choice in the matter of philandering husbands in public roles (such as politics, sports, churches, etc.). On the other hand, it's time for prostitution to be legal, too.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  35. Anish Simon

    I dont understand what the pannel is talking about. Silda, the governers wife did what she thought was right. What is that lady in the pannel taling about. Its not her business to dictate how families do heir public appearanes. I think she is an arrogant woman who happend to have so much bitterness in her life. I am not saying that the governor was right, he is a moron by cheating his wife – but allow that woman to do what she wants to do.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  36. Claire

    I would think that any Harvard educated woman would make up her own mind – I think you discredit Mrs. Spitzer and her intelligence when you assume she was forced to attend the press conference. Perhaps she was there because she wanted to be?

    March 11, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  37. Kay

    in spitzer's apology (that i heard) he said he apologized to his family. i was wating for him to be more specific and publicly apologize to his wife, especially since she was standing there. he has no class.

    March 11, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  38. bond

    C'mon gimme a break. These aren't "normal" women. Any "normal" woman I know would absolutely go "postal" after finding out that they're worthless husband had been unfaithful! I could only imagine what my sisters, mom, grama, aunties would do! It must be something about the money, the fame, the launching of their own political career? I don't know, but standing there like a tree behind your man after he's humiliated you and your family looks ridiculous and probably puts the image of a strong woman back 40 years!

    March 11, 2008 at 10:54 pm |