September 21st, 2009
09:11 PM ET

Why are some politicians forgiven in sex scandals?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/21/politicians.sex.scandals/art.eliotspitzer.gi.jpg]

Jessica Yellin
CNN National Political Correspondent

Damning new allegations about former Sen. John Edwards' extramarital affair are coming out - this time, the claims could spell the end of Edwards' political career.

While the U.S. has a tradition of forgiveness, politicians seem able to gain forgiveness from the public and come back after just about anything. As long as the offender apologizes, gets punished and seems to suffer along the way, they are forgiven.

Edwards admitted to having an affair with former 2008 presidential campaign worker Rielle Hunter. He did a mea culpa.

"In 2006, two years ago, I made a very serious mistake. A mistake that I am responsible for and no one else," he said during an interview with ABC News' "Nightline."

"I told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness, asked God for his forgiveness," he said.

But now he's getting the front page New York Times treatment.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Jessica Yellin • Raw Politics
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Melissa

    Some are forgiven and others aren't for very obvious reasons. Those that are forgiven are just people that cheated. The wife wasn't dying when they did it. And they didn't use tax payer money to do it. The ones that aren't are the ones that did something else slimy to accompany the cheating.

    September 22, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  2. Donna Wood Lil' Tennessee

    They haven't been forgiven in my book. I think they are dispicable and have not only thier families but thier careers taken from them. I know that sounds harsh but lets face it they haven't been able to handle either one very well up to this point! Why should they have these nice things if they cannot take care of them! Throw them away ladies, throw them away!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 22, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Elizabeth Edwards is a smart "cookie", she's know about her husbands affairs and the child for a long time. However, in the interest of her children's financial future she was sealing her book deal making sure all the procedes go to her children knowing that John's baby with Hunter would could create financial diaster for her children. Women could learn a lot from Elizabeth on how to handle their life and finances in the midst of a husbands lying and infedelity.

    September 22, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  4. Steve G

    Has to do with the amount of "power" they hold or seek or how much of a threat they are to the opposition, or if they have been disingenuously hypocritical.

    September 22, 2009 at 9:35 am |
  5. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Why are some forgiven? They're Democrats and the double standard applies. There's already talk of an Elliot Spitzer comeback.

    September 22, 2009 at 8:25 am |
  6. Bernard Davis

    Out of all the extra marrital affairs exposed you never here anyone say it's wrong until they are caught. This is an excepted way of life. Example, in the old western movies the sherrif, the mayor,big business men who had power spent hours on end with women in brothels and so forth. We are talking about years powerfull men doing as they please. why is everyone so surprised.

    September 22, 2009 at 2:31 am |
  7. Mary from New Orleans

    A Politician that has an affair and bears a love-child while his wife
    is fighting for her life is about as Low as any one man can get!!!
    He betrayed his good wife and that shows how he would have had no
    problem betraying our country!!!

    He needs to be fully investigated and put in prison with heavy fines, and
    yes, Elizabeth needs to divorce him and get everything while hse has time left! I am a bilateral breast cancer survivor and I can tell you that
    cancer is painfull enough without having the kind of emotional pain
    this poor wife has!
    Elizabeth dear, please listen, we women, we want you to forget him
    as a husband and enjoy the rest of your time with your children.
    This scandel will only cause you more agony, now that your pathetic
    husband is forced to tell the truth...
    God Bless you Elizabeth, you are a saint!

    September 21, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Christina Dapaah

    I'm glad he couldn't win any of the election, the vp in 2004 and the primarys in 2008. Heartless man.

    September 21, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  9. candy

    You Lie!!

    There is nothing more disgusting than John Edwards and his cheating, his lies and cover-up schemes, involving another married man taking the heat no less. OMG

    September 21, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  10. itubaba

    It is very disappointing for you / CNN to waste prime time focusing on Edwards personal life. Please, use you alloted time to focus on whorthwhile events. Afterall we all have some skeletons in our cupboard.

    September 21, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  11. corvedacosta

    I guess people see that they are humans too and they do make silly mistakes. We need to stop hold on such high pedestals and understand they cook, eat, and do the same things we do -.

    September 21, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  12. Lynn

    People have short memory spans. They tend to forgive and forget. Maybe their own human frailties play a part in the acceptance. I personally find it revolting and a gross misuse of their so called "power" status.

    The spouse usually will suffer through it in silence and the children if any are probably emotionally scarred as well.

    It's a shame it's such a narcissistic attitude they have and they wonder why we don't like them.

    Bring back the Paul Newman's of the world...men with integrity ...he knew he had steak at home...so why go out and eat hamburger.

    September 21, 2009 at 10:42 pm |

    Because their wives don't give them big punishment and stand by them like idiots.... John Edwards song is not by Chris Mathews... it is the famous song "Hit the road Jack and don;t you come back no more"......

    September 21, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  14. Patrick H.-Shannon, MS

    There's no doubt John Edward's career as an elected official is on "E" – enough. How could anyone possibly trust him to represent their interest now after he appears to be so untrustworthy as a husband, father, and oh yeah, presidential candidate. But hey, no bother, he probably would make a super insurance salesman.

    September 21, 2009 at 10:09 pm |
  15. Mrs Nancy

    Most Americans speak morals, but don't care as long as they can feel superior with judging others.

    I like to say it's my job to love and God's job to judge.

    Not as much fun as throwing stones at glass houses!

    September 21, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  16. Cathy O

    I thought that maybe Edwards would get aroung to marrying his mistress if and when Elizabeth dies. But to even breathe the slightest hint at it now seems horrible and cruel. Maybe Elizabeth wants to be practicle and other-wordly about it. However, at this point, I think she has every right to abandon him to his own life and his new mistress and take full custody of their children until her death. The reason I think people aren't willing to forgive him is because he continues to lie and he doesn't show any believable remorse or wish for redemption.
    He is, as they say " a piece of work."

    September 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  17. Diane

    Next generations will learn that it is unethic to have extra-marital affairs, not only it disgrace to his but wife, children and their families as well. They lost public trust and respect either they are required to go to Adutery Rehab for 6 months or first wives can get together and form Anchovies club, giving their spouses Anchovie paste every time they show up on stages or in public.

    Soon enough we may have great new generation of politicians with higher ethics and values.

    September 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  18. Kim

    The Edward's opened up a furniture store and hope their personal lives have recovered but his political life ? Have doubts down south that'll happen real fast if it does.

    September 21, 2009 at 9:12 pm |
  19. alexlyrics

    John Edwards will never live down what he has done to his wife while she dies of cancer.
    I don't think he will ever have a political career again. Women are not that forgiving. Clinton stuck with his wife, and mended his marriage. Edwards lied and lied, and then lied again.
    Edwards wife dying, and then has to deal with this type of embarrassment.
    John Edwards might as well have left his wife, because to the human heart, that's what he did in spirit to her anyhow.
    I believe John Edwards political career is threw.

    September 21, 2009 at 9:06 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    If the current disclosures are true then it shows a man who is so low as to offer marriage to a woman while his current wife is fighting for every day of her existence. His declarations of being with his wife both figuratively and literally ring very hollow against this new information. His youthful, honest, I care about you personal that he tries to project looks more like a dishonest, scheming, I only care about myself, scoundrel who is incapable of feeling compassion and obligation to the woman he vowed to be with through better or worse. If he will screw his wife over he would have no compunction doing the same or worse to the country.

    September 21, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  21. Cindy

    None of the politicians who mess around on their wives should be forgiven. They all should be kicked to the curb. If they can't do right by their family then how can they possibly be trusted to do right by us!


    September 21, 2009 at 8:42 pm |
  22. Nicholas

    Bill Clinton was not cheating on a dying wife. Did he conspire with anyone to cover it up? Did he spend campaign money on a lover?

    Edwards confessed to cheating on a wife battling for her life. Now it looks like he has just been waiting for Elizabeth to die. How shallow is this guy?

    If Young is to be believed, Conspiracy To Cover Up, campaign finances, all figure in.

    September 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  23. Fed Up

    That low life Scum Edwards is the worst and nobody will forgive him, his career is over. Other Democrats are forgiven, since it is known Democrats have no morals.

    September 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm |